Cheng: A More Fulfilling Winterim

The Dartmouth Externship Program has untapped potential.

by Christopher Cheng | 1/18/18 12:15am

Dartmouth is unique in that it has an unusually long winter break (appropriately called “winterim”), and I’m certainly not complaining. This chunk of time allows for productive activities such as a cappella tours, service projects abroad and training trips for athletic teams. It also allows for down time to unwind from the fall term. These activities are primarily student-directed, and the College remains relatively inactive during this six-week period.

The Dartmouth Externship Program, then, is for those interested in pre-professional activities to network and gain experience in their future industries without waiting until their next off-term to do so. Among those individuals, those with career aspirations beyond consulting and finance are especially supported. As of the last day of signups for the DEP on Nov. 28, 2017, only four out of 63 externships offered were in finance and consulting. A whopping 19 externships were in education or academia, 14 in health or science industries and 10 in technology.

Certainly, the DEP has its flaws. Most of the externships only entail job shadowing, which requires a considerable commitment in the form of one’s physical presence. This can prove problematic in an externship,which can be too long for a brief hotel stay but too short for lodging arrangements like those in off-term internships. This situation poses no problem to students living in metropolitan areas where many externship opportunities already exist. Although one could stay at a nearby hotel or with a friend, many students do not have the required financial or practical means to do so, and thus disproportionally suffer from limited access to DEP career opportunities. This could be why the DEP did not achieve complete enrollment for all externship opportunities, despite its greatly extended signup deadline and its allowance of two externships per student.

This enrollment outcome is also due in part to CPD’s lax regulations. The CPD’s role is a facilitator of career development arrangements between employers and students. As a result, there is an overabundance of job shadowing opportunities in the DEP. To address this issue in the future, the CPD can induce more employers to offer short-term project opportunities. These can make participation possible for many more “externs,” who can remotely participate to complete such projects. The CPD could do so by requiring employers who sign up for the program to offer both short-term projects as well as job shadowing opportunities. This change could decrease the number of possible externships, since short-term project opportunities are more difficult to arrange. Regardless, the CPD must address the 63 externship opportunities available in 2017 to make this year’s DEP even better.

Lax regulation of employer-student pairings can have one other potentially negative side effect. If use of DEP increases, it is expected that competition for certain externship opportunities will increase. For example, it’s possible that the scarcity of finance and consulting opportunities will conflict with Dartmouth students’ widespread demonstrated interest in these career paths. Given the option to select externs, finance and consulting employers may do so in a way that resembles the recruiting process, placing increased stress on students even as their fall term finals approach.

DEP is a thoughtful program with some promise. However, the CPD must take care to manage some of its inherent issues.

Cheng is a previous participant in the DEP Program.