St. Olaf Magazine | Fall 2023

Career Builders

There’s a reason that the newest issue of the Princeton Review ranks St. Olaf College’s career services among the top 25 in the nation — No. 21, to be exact.

St. Olaf advisors and career coaches connect students to a menu of more than 5,000 internships, undergraduate research experiences, and other hands-on opportunities at a breadth of organizations ranging from nonprofits to Fortune 500 companies.

These opportunities are supercharged by the power of the Ole network: thousands of St. Olaf alumni who are eager to support current students by sponsoring opportunities, supervising interns, and sharing openings at their organization. Several alumni have funded signature St. Olaf internship programs that give cohorts of students hands-on experience each year in fields like medicine, law, social impact, and business. Even more have shared their expertise and talent through the St. Olaf Connections Program, Ole Career Launcher, and Alumni Career Panels. More than 400 alumni served as career volunteers over the 2022–23 academic year alone.

“Internships are not just opportunities to gain work experience, but invaluable stepping stones toward professional success. They bridge the gap between theory and practice, giving students the chance to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom to meaningful projects and challenges,” says Piper Center for Vocation and Career Director Kirsten Cahoon ’98. “By integrating internships into the college experience, we empower students to test out potential pathways, develop essential skills, and build valuable networks that will shape their future careers.”

“By integrating internships into the college experience, we empower students to test out potential pathways, develop essential skills, and build valuable networks that will shape their future careers.”

Piper Center for Vocation and Career Director Kirsten Cahoon ’98

St. Olaf makes these career pathways possible for all Oles with $710,000 of funds provided every year through the Piper Center to support unpaid or underpaid internships, as well as funding for on-campus research experiences. The St. Olaf Collaborative Undergraduate Research and Inquiry (CURI) program gives scores of talented students each summer the opportunity to work alongside faculty members on significant research and creative projects in a wide array of fields.

“St. Olaf is a leader in ensuring that all students have access to opportunities by building internships and other forms of experiential learning into the general education curriculum,” Cahoon adds.

All of this support is designed to help St. Olaf students develop their four-year path and achieve their future career goals — and Oles are taking advantage of these opportunities in a big way. On average, 90 percent of St. Olaf graduates participated in an internship, research or field experience, community service, or similar experiential learning opportunity while on campus.

Here current St. Olaf students share where their research experiences and internships are taking them. Read more of these experiences at Ole Career Building.

Harry Olander ’24 |
Interns in the Mayo Clinic Sleep Behavior and Neurophysiology Research Laboratory founded and directed by Erik St. Louis ’87, Professor of Neurology and Medicine in the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science in Rochester, Minnesota, and Research Chair for Mayo Clinic Southwest Wisconsin
“We were able to meet so many amazing physicians and surgeons who showed us incredible things and enabled us to participate in the work, too,” says Maras. “It was truly the experience of a lifetime being able to study REM sleep behavior disorder, sleep science, and polysomnography with Dr. St. Louis at the best hospital in the country — something not everyone can say!”

Artist Planning Intern at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., working directly with the National Symphony Orchestra
“I am interested in connecting arts administration and music education to help create a stronger future for the arts. Getting this hands-on experience allowed me to see the ins and outs of what it takes to run an orchestra up close. It’s been amazing to listen to such a high level of music-making each day!”

Sardar Qaidi ’26 | PSYCHOLOGY MAJOR
Community Development Coordinator Intern for the House of Coexistence in Sinjar, Iraq
“In 2014 ISIS committed a genocide against the people of Sinjar in northern Iraq. Since then, I have dreamed of becoming a psychologist because there were few or none to help people who experienced PTSD. During this internship, we provided victims of ISIS with activities and open discussions where they had the chance to share their experiences in ISIS captivity. This experience helped me develop ideas and incorporate real-life stories into the book I am writing about the 2014 Yazidi Genocide. I’m focused on the stories behind the news — the unheard stories of the Yazidi women survivors.”

Rahaf Qarabsa ’26 | BIOLOGY MAJOR
Collaborative Undergraduate Research and Inquiry (CURI) Program Participant in the Lee Lab of Neural Systems and Behavior at St. Olaf College
“One of the most significant takeaways from this experience is the confidence to accept that we do not know everything. We are constantly in this cycle of questions, trying to find appropriate answers. I have had the opportunity to broaden my understanding of neuroscience research, specifically animal communication. I seek to engage in informal conversations to share and learn biology and neuroscience on a daily basis. This opportunity inspired me to take leadership positions on campus, like becoming the biology representative on the Natural Sciences and Math Student Action Team and an executive member of the Neuro Club, since I believe that being a leader is one step, of many, to becoming an impactful researcher in the future.”

Field Paleontology Intern at Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park in Northeastern Nebraska
“I hope to go into paleontology in the future, and this opportunity gave me my first hands-on dig experience. My absolute favorite part of this summer was digging up fossils that haven’t seen the light of day for 12 million years. I also loved the experience I got with science communication. I had to learn to explain the history and complicated paleontological context of the Ashfall site in a succinct way that was understandable by everyone I spoke with, including the kids visiting the site.”

Clara Droessler ’24 | CHEMISTRY MAJOR
Intern in the Medical Oncology Laboratory of Mark Murakami ’02 (winner of the 2022 St. Olaf Alumni Achievement Award) at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Massachusetts
“My internship provided me with the opportunity to experience hematology research and also broadened my understanding of what cancer research looks like. The development of biomarkers, discovery of therapeutic drug molecules, and investigation of human genomics are examples of areas of research that I could pursue in graduate school. I also had opportunities to network with other interns, postdoctoral fellows, and renowned scientists.”

Intern with the Permanent Mission of Barbados to the United Nations in Manhattan, New York
“The United Nations as a multilateral intergovernmental organization is a living, breathing instrument for international relations. This opportunity allowed me to contextualize my studies, and it provided me with a greater understanding of how international systems and international law function. This will be applicable knowledge for any career I pursue in the political space as the world is continually globalizing.”

Rinchen Sakya ’24 | BIOLOGY MAJOR
North Star STEM Alliance Biological Research and Environmental Conservation Fellowship at La Selva Biological Station in Sarapiqui, Costa Rica
“Costa Rica has lots of biodiversity, which makes it a great place for studying different species of animals and how they interact with each other in their natural environments. My career goal is to be able to become a successful pathologist assistant. Learning more about the skills and the different approaches to biological research has helped me gain a deeper understanding of the biology field and will make me a more competitive candidate when applying for jobs or graduate programs.”

Fund for American Studies International Affairs Summer Academic Internship in Washington, D.C.
“At the NGO Bank Information Center, I was able to attend, network, and contribute policy analysis to various World Bank–related meetings, including one at the U.S. Institute of Peace. Through the connections I made during my internship this summer, I was able to successfully get into a yearlong Civic Leaders Fellowship at the Ronald Reagan Institute that I’m doing this year while taking my usual array of classes at St. Olaf!”

Ryan Learning Center Summer Intern at the Art Institute of Chicago
“I am interested in the power of studio art to connect audiences — and especially youth — with important topics such as climate change. Through this opportunity, I learned the necessary skills to start my own organization for promoting accessibility to the arts and providing resources to neighborhoods that lack an influence of art.”

Forest Technician for the U.S. Forest Service in Walden, Colorado
“I am extremely passionate about environmental conservation, policy, and sustainability. While my ultimate goal is to pursue a graduate degree in wildlife biology/ecology, working for the Forest Service in the recreation and trails department gave me valuable experience with hands-on field work and team leadership, while also opening up a network full of professionals with varied interests and expertise in the field of environmental management.”

Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Mayo Clinic, a position supported by SURF Program Director Bruce Horazdovsky ’81, in Rochester, Minnesota
“I got to work on my own project independently and study how a specific enzyme could contribute to different cellular pathways, of which alteration can lead to cancer. I also did practical work on medication and was actively shown by my mentor how they function in metabolism. The Mayo Clinic SURF Program also held a weekly seminar series describing professors’ research projects and current students’ graduate school experiences, which I found very fascinating and helpful. This research experience helped me present and communicate my scientific results with top experts and professors in public and professional settings.”

Philanthropy Intern at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Becket, Massachusetts
“I learned so much about cultivating individual support, writing grants, and executing capital campaigns. I hope to work in fundraising for a dance organization after graduation, and my internship made me feel connected and prepared to do so. The most incredible part of this summer was the opportunity to be constantly surrounded by dancers and artists from all parts of the world.”

Business Development and Mergers and Acquisitions Intern at Refresh Mental Health/United Health Group, a position supported by Chris Winge ’17, a CFO within UnitedHealth, in Jacksonville Beach, Florida
“Getting exposure to multiple aspects of the corporate world, from developing skills in Excel and Salesforce to learning from fellow interns and supervisors, was very exciting. This internship helped me shape my career interests and granted me more clarity for my job search this fall.”

Anna Secor ’24 | NURSING MAJOR
Mayo Clinic Nursing Internship in Rochester, Minnesota
“Through this internship I gained over 370 hours of direct patient care experience with a registered nurse at Mayo Clinic. I was able to work with my preceptor to provide pulmonary care, promote independence in activities of daily living, and give patients emotional support along with education and discharge planning. As a nursing major, this internship gave me confidence in all the skills I will be performing as a nurse post-grad!”