College to provide Metcalf internship opportunities for all incoming undergraduates

Mary Abowd
News Officer for Arts & HumanitiesUniversity Communications

The College has set an ambitious goal to double the number of internships through the widely admired Jeff Metcalf Internship Program—enough for all incoming undergraduates to have at least one paid internship opportunity during their College stay.

The expansion is designed to bring the total number of annual Metcalf internships and research placements to 2,000, allowing all members of the Class of 2018 to have an internship opportunity before they graduate.

This commitment, extremely unusual in American higher education, builds upon the College’s distinctive combination of a rigorous liberal arts education and thorough preparation for success in career paths after graduation. All Metcalf participants are paid for their internships.

“Increasing the availability of Metcalfs extends the University’s commitment to providing every student with the guidance and experience needed to succeed after graduation,” said James G. Nondorf, vice president and dean of College Admissions and Financial Aid.

The College is taking immediate steps to create hundreds of additional internships for students from low-income families, who will be guaranteed a paid internship or research opportunity during the summer after their first year. This growth in opportunities for Odyssey Scholars is linked to the University’s No Barriers initiative, which expands access, aid and career opportunities for students in the College. The Odyssey expansion will be phased in, beginning with students entering the College in the fall of 2015.

Several major companies, including Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, already have accepted the University’s invitation to host students with “Odyssey Metcalfs.” The quality of UChicago students has been key to the program’s appeal for many Metcalf employers.

“The intellectual skills that students learn so well in the College, such as making arguments and becoming experts in very complicated subjects, turn out to be tremendously useful in the work world,” said John W. Boyer, dean of the College. “We believe a comprehensive liberal arts education is inherently valuable, and it is something that employers value greatly about University of Chicago students.”

Since their inception in 1997 with eight interns, the Metcalf internships have grown into a popular program that offers students meaningful, paid job placements with more than 500 organizations in a wide range of industries, non-profit institutions and research centers around the world. Last year, a record 1,000 students participated in the program.

In addition to the Metcalf program, College students can partake in one of the more than 600 job shadowing trips, or “treks,” offered through Career Advancement. They also are encouraged to participate in one of the office’s eight pre-professional career mentoring programs—called UChicago Careers In—that provide resources and development in business, science, education, the arts and more.

“We want as many students as possible to develop professional networks and position themselves for full-time employment,” said Meredith Daw, assistant vice president and executive director of Career Advancement. “If we’re really talking about access, we need to provide these opportunities to students when they need them most.” 

James Ebert, AB’14, began thinking about where his education would take him as soon as he arrived at UChicago. “I saw all my peers getting hands-on experience in finance through their internships,” said Ebert, who majored in economics and now works as an investment banker at J.P. Morgan in New York City. “I wanted to follow their paths.”

Ebert said advisors with Career Advancement helped him hone his resume and interviewing skills and connected him to the Chicago-based investment firm Morningstar, where he secured a nine-month internship. That internship, in turn, led to a full-time job offer at J.P. Morgan, another Metcalf placement site. “Each Metcalf experience builds upon the previous one,” Ebert said. “Without the program, I never would have been able to forge the path that led me to where I am today.”

Ebert’s story demonstrates just how crucial job experience is for college students entering today’s job market. “Years ago, students could go through recruiting as fourth-years with limited or no work experience,” said Daw. “Today the expectation from the market is that students are going to have had a professional job experience while in college.” 

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