Internship Event Stresses Importance of Liberal Arts Education


A view of the panel at “Internship Smarts for Liberal Arts.” From left to right Bruno Lanfernini (Northwestern Mutual), Jay Kirsch (AOL), Rachel Bowie (Good Housekeeping), Brittany Batten (ABC), and James Shender (JP Morgan). (Rex Sakamoto/ The Observer)

On Wednesday, Oct. 24, in the South Lounge at Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC), Career Services organized an event called “Internship Smarts for Liberal Arts.” According to Career Services, the goal of the event was to facilitate undergraduates in meeting “recruiters and interns who know the value of your degree.” Representatives from Northwestern Mutual, AOL, Good Housekeeping, ABC and JP Morgan were present.

For most of the meeting the representatives talked about the importance of a liberal arts education in any field. Brittany Batten, Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH) ’14 and an intern at “Live! With Kelly and Michael” on ABC, said, “You have to be able to think on your feet, you have to be able to pull information from one thing and apply it to another…and through the core you’re able to dabble in a bunch of different areas.”

While three of the companies represented were related to communications and the other two were Wall Street companies, they all expressed that they would hire a student with a sociology, philosophy, or anthropology major. James Shender, an investment banking analyst at J.P. Morgan, shared an anecdote about hiring a philosophy major. Although the student did not necessarily know the fine mechanics of accounting, because he read the Wall Street Journal, he was still able to demonstrate an impressive grasp on the various problems on Wall Street and possible solutions.

“Liberal arts major tend to have a better soft skill set…they communicate very well,” Shender said.

Jay Kirsch, senior vice president and general manager at AOL and FCRH ’92, said, “Critical thinking skills in an industry where things are moving at lightning speed–and the ability and training to question things and not taking them at face value is critical.”

Another topic addressed was what qualities in interns companies are looking for. Rachel Bowie, associate editor of digital editions at Good Housekeeping recommended “finding several blogs to follow and keep[ing] up with the trends…with social media, which is the primary skill we are looking for in our interns.”

Aside from the ability to communicate well through social media and have a solid grasp on new technologies, companies are still looking for interns who can write well.

Kirsch added, “The number one skill that is hardest to hire for is the ability to write…if you can’t write by the age of 22, you’re pretty much toast.”

Despite the common requirement that most internships be for credit only, that was not the case here. Only Good Housekeeping required school credit, while the other four internships were paid. Previously ABC had only for-credit internships, but as of spring 2013 they will offer a paid internship.

When asked about the change from a for credit to a paid internship, Batten said, “From what I have heard around the office, they changed it because they felt it was unfair to ask interns to work 20 hours a week without some compensation. Some felt it was abuse.”

On the other hand, Louise Mckenna,  FCLC ’14,  and an attendee at the meeting, said she did not believe that it was unfair to not pay an intern event though they may work 20 hours a week. She said, “It gives you a really good opportunity to meet people and gain experience and have a valuable thing to add to your resume.”

The event also stressed the importance of being versatile in the job market. No longer can an intern be a one-trick pony. As the representatives said, it is important to have a broad background in many areas in order to be able to deal with an assortment of tasks.

Shender’s words of advice were, “Your goal should be to fit in with the company, not get the internship.”