Student Stories

Learning by doing: pursuing passions beyond the classroom

Students gain hands-on experience through the Jeff Metcalf Internship Program

Although classes are out of session, UChicago students have the opportunity to pursue a different form of education outside of the typical academic calendar. From an economics major with a passion for public art to a statistics major eager to explore the world of start-ups, many students cultivate their career interests all summer long through Metcalf Internships.

Founded in 1997 by UChicago’s Office of Career Advancement, the Jeff Metcalf Internship Program gives students the chance to complete paid, substantive internships with employers around the globe. About 3,000 Metcalf internships will be available this year, and undergraduates from all four years are eligible to participate.

Among its many benefits, the Metcalf program supports students who are interested in the humanities. In the past, students have interned at museums, publications and leading arts organizations across the United States, including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Guggenheim Museum in New York, The Wall Street Journal and the New Orleans Film Society. 

Portrait of Katie Harris in from of shelves of hour glasses.
Katie Harris, economics, AB'21

This summer, Katie Harris, a rising third-year and economics major, interned at Creative Time. A New York-based nonprofit, Creative Time has commissioned well-known public art projects like the Tribute in Light installation at the World Trade Center site.

While working at Creative Time, Harris conducted research on future projects and participated in the installation of The Privilege of Escape, an interactive project about social inequities that ran in New York in July and August.

“Creative Time is deeply committed to the role that art plays in shaping society,” Harris commented. “Their mission really resonated with me, and it was a no-brainer to join a team that produces such innovative, thoughtful, and relevant public artwork.”

In between her first and second years at the College, Harris spent three years in New York City, dancing and working in production management at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. That experience, combined with her internship at Creative Time, has given her a strong desire to pursue an arts-related career.

“I’ve also always been excited by the dynamic role that art, technology and business play together in society,” said Harris. “I see myself working at the intersection of all three domains, and my experiences at Creative Time and as a dancer have undoubtedly informed my desire to do so.”

Portrait of Arjun Patel in from a sign that reads "Speeko. Speak your mind."
Arjun Patel, statistics, AB'20

Many students use Metcalf internships to acquire new skills on their own initiative. For the past three summers, Arjun Patel, a rising fourth-year majoring in statistics, has interned at Speeko, a tech start-up that has developed an app to help people with their public speaking abilities. Each year, he has developed new forms of expertise to meet his position’s changing responsibilities.

“When I first started with Speeko, I was a business development intern, gathering intel on competitors and creating exercise content for our app,” said Patel. “When I realized that I could accomplish the latter faster if I learned how to code, I taught myself [the computer languages of] R and Python. The next summer, while we were immersed in entrepreneurship programming, I learned basic linguistics, speech signal processing and machine learning to develop classifiers for our app. And this summer, I've learned more advanced machine learning techniques to analyze user behavior in our app, so we can understand why users purchase a subscription from us.”

Patel is grateful that Speeko has given him opportunities to develop as a statistician and data analyst. “I enjoy the responsibility and room for growth that working at Speeko gives me,” he said. “I have room to teach myself new skills, to ask questions and to manage my own time.”

Portrait of Berenice Martinez
Berenice Martinez, public policy and sociology, AB'21

Beyond furthering students’ education, Metcalf internships give students the chance to serve communities in need. This summer, rising third-year Berenice Martinez interned at the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC), an NGO that provides legal assistance to immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers.

As part of her job responsibilities, Martinez helped undocumented immigrants apply for permanent residency, spousal sponsorship and work permit renewals. She also acted as a Spanish language interpreter for NIJC’s clients, many of whom need assistance to navigate the American legal system. 

“By taking on this internship, I wanted to assist individuals going through the complex immigration process and attempt to make their lives easier,” Martinez said.

A double major in public policy and sociology, Martinez said that working at NIJC confirmed her desire to study immigration law. “I took on this internship hoping that I’d learn what it actually means to be an immigration lawyer, and I absolutely love it. I cannot wait to go to law school and be able to help clients with their court cases.”

The Jeff Metcalf Internship Program offers career-transformative experiences to UChicago students, helping them gain hands-on experiences, grow their professional networks and prepare for the workforce. This past academic year a record of 96% of the class of 2019 had reported post-graduate placements. It is thanks to the University’s commitment to the Metcalf Program and the generous support of alumni, parents and friends that the Metcalf Program continues to provide the caliber and set of diverse opportunities to students. As of Summer 2020, all Odyssey Scholars with Metcalf internships will receive a minimum stipend of $5,000. In addition, over the next few years, the program will be increasing the baseline stipend for all Metcalf internships to $5,000. Metcalf internships for the upcoming academic year can be found on Handshake.