Recent Liberal Arts graduate reflects on impact of Chapel Internship

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — After graduating from Penn State, alumni can usually pinpoint a few impactful experiences that shaped their career paths and their lives. For Ben Berkman, that experience was the Chapel Executive Internship Program.

The Virginia Todd Chapel Executive Internship Program was established by Virginia "Jinnie" Todd Chapel and her husband, John, with leadership gifts creating a $2 million endowment. The program provides $5,000 internship awards to about 15 students interning in the private sector each year, under the direction of The Career Enrichment Network in the College of the Liberal Arts.

Berkman was a part of the 2014-15 cohort of interns, and he spent his time at Allee King Rosen & Fleming (AKRF), an environmental planning, engineering and consulting firm based in New York City. Berkman cited the experience of interning in the city as one that really shaped his understanding of the corporate experience. It forced him to act as a professional, rather than as a college student. This is one of the main goals students have when participating in internships while in college, and it’s also one that the Chapel Executive Internship brings to students’ attention.

The program is specific to the College of the Liberal Arts — and for good reason. Berkman described this unique opportunity by saying, “The Chapels recognized that Liberal Arts students entering the private sector do not always have the same clear-cut career paths as students in other colleges.” He went on to describe this quality as both a challenge and a strength because students can gain a rich perspective that expands their point of view past a narrow career path. For Berkman and other Chapel Executive Interns, the encouragement to channel a varied wealth of knowledge into a career in the private sector helped to ease the transition from university life into professional life.

However, the program doesn’t merely focus on helping students gain a clear career path but also helps them to have influential learning experiences along the way. Berkman graduated in 2017 with degrees in economics and French and now works at Technomics in Arlington, Virginia. Technomics specializes in cost analysis for federal clients, largely in the defense industry. This consulting helps the government to spend money effectively and hold reasonable contracts with companies in a certain industry. The intersection between government and private industry was a subject that Berkman found interest in during his time at AKRF and is one he continues to learn about in his role at Technomics.

The Chapel Executive Internship Program helped to set the stage for Berkman’s professional career, but he also became a well-rounded graduate because he took advantage of other opportunities during his time at Penn State. This included experiences made available through the Schreyer Honors College, specifically a trip to Johannesburg, South Africa, that allowed him to learn about the media infrastructure there.

As a recent alumnus, Berkman advises current students to take advantage of the wide variety of opportunities available to them, especially in the Liberal Arts. This could include everything from experiences abroad to regular contact with professors who can provide field knowledge and be positive role models.

He also had one piece of advice to give students who may seek internship experiences much like his own.

“For internships, don't just chase the money. Follow something that interests you in a field that you want to explore,” Berkman said. “Resources at Penn State offer funds to support your experiences — it just takes the effort to seek them out.”

To learn more about the Chapel Executive Internship Program and the Liberal Arts Career Enrichment Network, visit http://www.la.psu.edu/current-students/cen/funding/the-virginia-todd-chapel-executive-internship-program.

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Last Updated April 06, 2018