New CXD Internship Program Encourages Employers and Students to Create Unique Opportunities

By Rebecca Goldfine

This summer, Bowdoin’s Career Exploration and Development office (CXD) will fund 180 summer internships. Several of these originated from employers and students willing to think creatively and improvise.

Sophomore Bootcamp image
A moment from this January's Sophomore Bootcamp, which is when many students begin to seek out internship opportunities.

This year, CXD launched a new initiative that engages organizations that might not have considered hiring a summer intern, as well as with students who may have unique skills to offer a workplace.

Called the Cultivated Internship campaign, the pilot program relies on people starting with an idea—even if it’s not fully formed—followed by networking and having conversations.

“It’s an innovative approach to cultivating original internships,” CXD Senior Associate Director and Advisor Meg Springer said, and it invites alumni and community partners to be more involved in developing new student opportunities.

The program is based on creativity and individualism, Springer said, as it encourages alumni to think about how they could craft a beneficial experience for a student, and entices students to reach out to alumni based on their interests and skills.

To illustrate her point, Springer said she sometimes chats with students who have eclectic interests and aren’t quite sure how to find an internship that suits them. “Students will come to me and say, ‘I would love to incorporate my interests in, for example, animal welfare, public transportation, and access to therapy.’ And I say, ‘Ooh, what can we do with that? That job won’t be on Handshake [CXD’s job database] or listed anywhere.'"

"'But I know there is an alum who works at the humane society or trains guide dogs, I wonder if you can have a conversation with that person and see how this all fits together and what can you create and design for the summer?'”

Meg Springer Cole Crawford portraits
CXD's Meg Springer and Cole Crawford.

CXD Associate Director of Employer Relations Cole Crawford said the new campaign helps to address the range of specialties that students develop at a liberal arts college. “The Bowdoin community is so diverse in terms of their interests and experiences, we have to be constantly pushing our pedal to the floor to develop new opportunities, to capture students’ attention and show them the wide world of work,” he said.

Employers interested in the new program can fill out an online form that asks them to select one of three choices: whether they want to share an internship, create an internship, or are open to student outreach. CXD counselors are available to talk to employers who want to brainstorm, and at times can even identify a student who would be a good fit.

What makes the Cultivated Internship campaign possible is that students come with their own funding, through CXD’s funded internship program, which this year is giving out grants of $6,000 to $7,000 to 180 students. “We’re trying to remove as many barriers as possible for students to be connected to employers,” Crawford said.

After rolling out the campaign this spring, CXD received more than 100 interested responses. Many were local, but there were also a few international positions.

Amanda Nguyen '11, director of coaching at the Great Schools Partnership, Inc., a Portland-based nonprofit, received an email this winter from Springer encouraging her to consider hosting an intern over the summer and explaining how the CXD team could help make that happen.

“As an education nonprofit, we have a strong orientation toward continuing to grow future educators or talent in this space," Nguyen said. "We have authentic projects and the ability to provide mentoring and networking opportunities to students.”

The Great Schools Partnership helps design and implement equitable systems of education in schools across the country. “So it is a broad space for students to jump into,” Nguyen said. “Some of our coaches help with strategic planning, some help school leaders build a culture of restorative practices within their schools, and others help people think about what equitable grading systems could look like.”

After Nguyen chatted with Crawford about what an internship at her organization could look like and wrote up a job description, he recommended that Ella Henry ’25, an economics and history major, apply for the role. “The student we found is a perfect match!” Nguyen said. 

Henry said she's looking forward to contributing to Great Schools Partnership's mission, and that she could only have made the opportunity happen with a CXD funded internship grant. She will be organizing the educational materials that GSP's staff generates in partnership with schools, conducting research, contributing to grant proposals, and taking on smaller projects here and there, she said.

"Attending a public high school myself, I witnessed many forms of educational inequities and unsuccessful attempts to squash them," she said. "I am excited to conduct research to improve upon the GSP coaching model so that underrepresented and underserved students are given the same opportunities as their peers."