Students Utilize Winter Term Opportunity

Katherine Hamilton, Staff Writer

With its notoriously loose parameters, Winter Term projects tend to span the spectrum from next to nothing to more work than students due during the semester. Though credit hours earned often fail to correspond to efforts made by students, Richard Berman, director of Career Services, said that Winter Term projects can be utilized as a valuable opportunity, tailored to individual students.

Some students try to land an internship in hopes of making professional connections that will help them find a job after graduation. Others choose projects based on their academic field, or for personal growth and development. Many are simply looking for an easy project that will let them earn a Winter Term credit.

Even pursuits that are not traditionally academic can be valuable if pursued wholeheartedly, according to Associate Professor and Chair of Classics Kirk Ormand. Ormand said that what academia considers a legitimate academic pursuit is constantly changing.

“It was only about 100 years ago that academics had to argue that the study of English literature — the novels of Jane Austen and the like — could be a legitimate subject of study, similar to the Greek and Latin classics. More recently, fields like cinema studies and various modes of critical theory have come into their own. That doesn’t mean that anything and everything is equally valid, but I do think it’s useful to have a corner of the curriculum where exploration of topics that are not yet mainstream has value,” Ormand said.

Berman said he is primarily concerned with helping students find internships, and he often utilizes connections with Oberlin alumni in order to set up students with valuable workplace experiences in their field of interest. This winter, 108 different sites offered internships through the Office of Career Services.

“We try to make connections with places where people have interned before or we have alumni,” said Berman.

Berman said internships are invaluable experiences not only for job acquisition, and also provide students the opportunity to explore a field as a potential career path during a short trial period.

According to Berman, one common complaint about internships is that they are not really “hands-on” enough. In Berman’s view, however, the positives outweigh the drawbacks of internships.

“There are a lot of jokes on late night TV about interns and coffee pots… But every experiential opportunity has some proportion of observation and some proportion of participation. A short internship may weigh more heavily on the observation side. For a one-month experience, you’ll get some participation, but it’s huge to get involved in the observational part and make some contacts that might be useful later,” said Berman.

Though students often find themselves in internships that are less engaging than expected, Berman noted that there are opportunities to learn regardless.

“There are internships where students need to be assertive, use their peripheral vision and be assertive about proposing projects they could take on and be helpful… to appropriately and professionally push the envelope to demonstrate our abilities,” said Berman.

Berman said that taking advantage of internships offered by alumni provides Oberlin students with a window into potential post-graduate opportunities.

“I met a lot of alums, and one thing that affirmed my choice to join this community at Oberlin was that I saw so many alums who were doing both well and good. I saw many fusions of profitable enterprises coupled with improving the quality of life worldwide,” said Berman.

Even if students decide not to take on an internship, Berman believes that any experience can prove valuable. “When you’re trying to apply for your next gig, the most important thing with whatever you do, whether it’s skydiving, or an internship, or, for Conservatory folks, some kind of a gig…what matters is that you can look someone in the eye and describe the value of what you’ve chosen to do.”