By Kerr Gebreselassie '22 and Maahir Uttman '23
City Hall Fountain

Wondering how you can put your networking skills to the test? Curious about internship opportunities at Oxy? Kerr Gebreselassie ‘22 and Maahir Uttman ‘23 detail their own internship experience with Occidental’s John Parke Young Initiative and InternLA programs.

Where was your internship and what did you do?

MU: My internship was at Jazz Hands for Autism - an organization that helps people with autism become working professionals in the music industry through a two-year educational program. I was part of the curriculum development team, which means that I assisted with the development, organizing, scoping and evaluation of curriculum. Specifically, I edited examination questions based on their difficulty and ability to discriminate the theoretical knowledge of students and created instructions for teachers at the organization on how to deliver the examinations. I also attended weekly meetings in which the entire team discussed the development, organizing, scoping and evaluation of the curriculum and made programming and workflow decisions based on that. 

KG: Over the summer I worked with Occidental's Young Initiative in partnership with the Los Angeles Mayor's Office of Economic Opportunity. We were tasked with providing the city with concrete first steps to stimulate a truth and accountability process regarding past and present, structural and systemic racism. Essentially, we wanted to identify hidden histories in Los Angeles' past that were not being acknowledged, as well as identify current areas for change. We did this through a plethora of interviews with academics, city officials, and practitioners in order to identify these areas and find the best practices for a truth-telling process.

How did Oxy support you in finding out about this internship/getting the internship?

MU: I originally began working for JHFA as part of the InternLA program which has a diverse set of internships to pick from. Jamila from the HCC was incredibly helpful for my interview preparation. I recorded myself answering interview questions that she gave me on the HCC portal and she gave me feedback. These questions were specific to the questions that a non-profit is likely to ask a potential employee. That was what helped me ace the interview and secure the internship!

KG: This internship originally started as a spring semester diplomacy and world affairs class with Professor Anthony Chase called ‘Task Force.’ These classes are partnerships with the city on implementing various UN Sustainable Development Goals on a city level. Our class went so well that Chase asked us to stay on over the summer and do further work. Even into this fall semester we have been working on furthering this project which has been great.

How has it changed your interest in that specific area/Did it align with your academic goals and interests?

MU: I found working for JHFA alluring as they deal with people with autism, a very common neurodevelopmental condition. I was allowed to combine my passion for music with my interest in the behavioral sciences. It does not align with my career interests as of now but I am confident that the social and organizational skills I gained from the internship will transfer over to what I plan on doing in the future. 

KG: Before this, I had not really considered working in city government because of the politics associated with it. However, knowing there are opportunities like these in city government has definitely given me a new perspective and broadened my horizons on what I can do with my major.

What advice do you have for students looking to participate in an internship?

MU: My first piece of the advice would be to apply to a diverse set of internships - especially if you are an underclassmen. Even if you don’t get an internship that perfectly aligns with your career interests, it’s still worth doing as you will not gain the skills you gain in a work environment outside of one. These skills will transfer over to your next job, and it might even change your mind as to what you wish to do in the future! 

KG: If I could give advice to students looking to participate in an internship, I would say make connections and talk to everyone you can. The more connections you forge with people at Oxy, the more opportunities will be presented to you.

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