College Guidance, administration introduces summer 2017 internship program


Susan MacDonald (Lucia Barker ’18), Elyse Pollack ’18 and Elizabeth English pose for a photo outside the Getty. Pollack interned at the Getty Conservation Institute with Macdonald, who is the Head of the Building and Sites Department. Image courtesy of Pollack.

For Archer girls, the 89 days of summer vacation may be some of the best days of the year — but how can students productively fill those 2,136 hours? Archer has a new solution.

In the spring of 2017, Co-Director of College Guidance Sonia Arora and former Upper School Director Samantha Coyne Donnel debuted a new internship program targeted at rising 11th and 12th grade students.

The program itself was years in the making and was inspired by other Los Angeles area schools with similar programs.

“When I was at my former school, we had a program where students that were rising 11th, 12th and first-years in college would apply to pursue internships that we had identified for them. It was a pretty large list and pretty developed program,” Arora said. “Students are growing so much in high school, are interested in different potential professions and want to be engaged over the summers.”

The Archer program that launched this summer partnered with five organizations: GenHERation, Getty Conservation Institute, Michelson Found Animals Foundation, SmartyPants Vitamins and USC Schaeffer Center for Health Policy. Coyne Donnel initially reached out to each organization in the spring of 2017.

“They were all onboard and excited to have Archer interns,” Arora said. “A few [organizations] are alumni businesses and others just had a relationship with Archer in the past.”

Cat Oriel ’18 (center) tours the Oprah Winfrey Network office in West Hollywood through her internship with GenHERation. Part of her internship included selling five tickets to the GenHERation Discovery Days, which are immersive summer day trips for young girls to visit companies including Snapchat, TOMS and NBC Universal. Image courtesy of Oriel.

To be paired with an internship, interested students completed applications, which Arora and a staff committee read. The committee then worked to fill the organization’s desires by pairing them with an Archer applicant. According to Arora, about 36 students applied for the nine available spots.

Through the program, Dominique White ’18 interned for two weeks at the USC Schaeffer Center for Health Policy. White worked with Seth Seabury Ph.D., who is an Associate Professor of Opthalmology and Director of the Keck-Schaeffer Initiative for Population Health.

White researched Age-Related Macular Degeneration, a condition that impairs vision, and analyzed the results of drugs currently used to treat the ailment. At the culmination of her internship, White presented her research to fellow interns, USC students and USC faculty mentors. She “really enjoyed” the experience overall and it further cemented her desire to work in medicine.

Also, through the program, senior Elyse Pollack ’18 found an internship at the Getty Conservation Institute [GCI], which is a section of the Getty Center that works internationally to preserve important sites and advance global conservation.

“At the GCI, I conducted research about Bagan, Myanmar.” Pollack wrote in an email interview. “Because of a catastrophic earthquake in 2016, many historic monuments [here] had been destroyed. I researched the conditions of these temples and monasteries and which organizations had been and currently are working in Bagan as part of feasibility research for the GCI. Aside from learning about Myanmar, I met with people from all over the world to learn about the work they are conducting at the GCI. It’s empowering to learn about their interdisciplinary work and all of the different types of people who work in conservation.”

Arora hopes to involve more companies in future years and wants to expand the range of career options offered. She also would like to extended the internship opportunities to include alumnae applicants.

Infographic showing which students worked for each company. Nine of 36 applicants were accepted.

“Over time, hopefully this program can grow larger. We can have lots of girls, maybe even 30, 40, 50 interning at different organizations over the summer,” Arora said. “There’s a lot of potential to grow this.”

Although the program was not created with the intention of adding to students’ college applications, Arora believes the “self awareness” learned from these internships “will transfer into college applications.”

“I was very thankful for the [internship] opportunity because it taught me how to rely on myself,” White said in an email interview.

But to Arora, the internship program does more than just add to a resume. She believes the internships serve as a way for students to explore their passions and maybe even discover a new one.

“We always encourage our students to pursue their passions over the summer — whether that’s developing a project of their own, pursuing a job, doing volunteer work or potentially a combination of those three. Whatever is going to spark their curiosity,” Arora said. “If we can introduce a potential internship to students — if it’s two weeks long, three weeks long or six weeks long — the student can go have a positive experience that helps them learn about themselves and working in an office or professional setting.”