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Student Externs Extend MIT into Professional World

Xing Yuan ‘08 had heard stories about summer internships gone awry – like months spent making coffee and photocopying. So he wasn’t sure what to expect when he and classmate Arjun Dayal ‘08 arrived at the Rosslyn, VA, offices of Booz Allen Hamilton (BAH) last May.

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Yuan and Dayal, in fact, did real work with the modeling, simulation, war-gaming, and analysis team at BAH, developing software that monitors the progress of complex projects with interdependent components. And BAH associate Christofer Collins, SM ‘01, was thrilled with their contributions. This is one of hundreds of partnerships created annually through the Alumni Association and students working with the MIT Careers Office.

Internships, which usually last a summer or a semester, can range from studying the environmental impact of flood gates in Venice to doing biomedical optics research at Massachusetts General Hospital. The Alumni Association’s one-month January Student/Alumni Externship Program has included opportunities to clerk for an intellectual-property law firm and design navy ships.

For students, these programs provide professional experience, career exploration, and alumni networking opportunities. Yelena Yakunina ‘06 completed a 2005 externship at National Economic Research Associates in New York, working with senior vice president David Tabak ‘90. On one case, she used regression analysis to help determine whether a company’s stock price was affected by alleged accounting errors. “It’s just a great experience because it gives you an opportunity to learn and apply your knowledge in the industry,” she said, “and it gives you access to alumni who are happy to help you.”

Alumni benefit from new connections to MIT. Tabak enjoys catching up on undergraduate life. For Collins, the connection is a career asset. “Interns provide real-time awareness of the latest technologies and developing market spaces,” he said.

Collins also was impressed by Yuan’s and Dayal’s innovative problem solving. “A couple of their methodologies worked much better than what we were doing,” Collins said. Tabak was so pleased with Yakunina’s externship that he offered her a summer internship – and a job after graduation. He also boosted his sponsorships from two to 14 externs.

These symbiotic partnerships are on the rise. The Careers Office reports that 83 percent of the Class of 2005 worked as interns. And the Alumni Association’s externship program is growing substantially: alumni sponsors increased 20 percent for January 2006, and the student applicant pool rose 38 percent.

Interested in an externship? Find out more at http://alum.mit.edu/ccg/students/externships/index.html.

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