Experiential learning is a hallmark of a Colby-Sawyer education. Incoming students look forward to taking field study courses, working on research projects with faculty and peers, and gaining work experience through internships. While the power of those opportunities is often clear in the moment, after a few years those students-turned-alumni also have the perspective to reflect on the lessons they gained through direct experiences that occurred outside a traditional academic setting and how they affected their lives.
It’s not surprising, then, that many Colby-Sawyer alumni show their appreciation by hosting students as interns at their own organizations. For students, having a mentor who was once in their own shoes multiplies the power of their experiential education.
For almost a decade, Nate Camp ’98, athletic director at Kearsarge Regional Middle School in Sutton, N.H., has accepted interns from the Exercise & Sport Sciences Department. They work with him to oversee practice and assist with game management, uniform inventory and meetings with other coaches, administrators and parents.
“I’ve been able to see many aspects of what an athletic coordinator and coach experience daily,” said Camp’s spring 2018 intern, sport management major Natalie Ellard ’19. After a previous internship with a professional soccer team that focused on fan entertainment, Ellard wanted to concentrate on providing student-athletes with support. “I couldn’t have asked for a better person to work for and learn from than Nate,” she said.
Likewise, Camp praises his Colby-Sawyer interns for their professionalism and dedication to the roles they play in the lives of his athletes. The collaboration has even helped produce a title — the Kearsarge Cougars were state champions during the 2016-17 season.
“My internship with Nate helped me decide what career path would be a good fit,” said Gregory Barlow ’15, a sport management major who competed on the Chargers’ soccer team, served on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and now works as a communications assistant for the American Athletic Conference.
Nicole Taylor ’17 also found her experiential learning opportunity helpful in exploring career paths. While spending a week shadowing Ethan Casson ’96 when he was chief operating officer at the San Francisco 49ers, Taylor learned about the specializations within her sports management major and networked with many professionals. Taylor now works as an account executive for the New England Revolution; Casson is the CEO of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx.
“I gained an incredible mentor and source of inspiration in Ethan and can attribute much of my success with the New England Revolution to the lessons I learned through my experience with him,” Taylor said.
For some, an internship in the alumni network leads to their first job after graduation. Stiles Associates, a New London-based executive search firm, has hired several interns, including Luke Aspell ’16 and Matt Nolan ’16.
CEO Jake Stiles finds it important to give back to the community. He and his wife, Heather Melanson Stiles ’90, remain connected to Colby-Sawyer through the internship program.
The desire to pay it forward has inspired Collin Bray ’06 — vice president of sales at Century 21 Cityside, the real estate company’s Boston office — to work with an intern from his alma mater every summer since 2013.
“I kept thinking I wanted to make a difference, but I had no idea how,” Bray said. “What started as an idea on how to stay connected as an alumnus has molded itself into a tradition.”
For Bray, who’s in the top five percent of Boston realtors, maintaining a personal connection to his college drove his initial decision to take interns, but it also influences his time with them. Real estate is demanding, but Bray makes the effort to forge relationships with his interns outside the office.
His first intern, Kyle Nelson ’15, now works at Fidelity Investments. Beyond learning how to step outside his comfort zone and develop interpersonal skills, Nelson’s biggest take-away from his internship was the way Bray modeled making connections.
“Personalization really went a long way with Collin and his success with his clients, and I try to include the same level of personalization with mine,” Nelson said.
In fact, many interns end up creating meaningful connections with the alumni facilitating their experiential learning opportunities. Camp regularly messages his former interns, and the Stiles enjoy visits from former interns who stop in to see them.
Child development major Christine Hill ’18 completed her internship at Spaulding Youth Center, which provides high-quality educational programming and services for special-needs youth. Hill later turned to her alumni mentor there, Special Education Coordinator Garrett Lavallee ’05, to discuss the possibility of conducting her Capstone on site. After their discussion, they visited the classroom in which Hill had interned.
“The smiles on our students’ faces were electric,” said Lavallee. “One of the students who has a difficult time walking literally jumped out of her seat and ran over to give Christine a bear hug.”
Lavallee has taken a handful of students during his 15 years at Spaulding and collaborates with each to guarantee a meaningful learning experience assisting teachers in the classroom.
Lavallee completed his own internship requirement supporting students with behavioral issues in the Kearsarge Regional School District under the guidance of Patty Bechok ’87. Bechok taught Lavallee the importance of providing physical and emotional safety to kids as well as establishing relationships with them, which is exactly what he hopes to impart to the interns who walk through Spaulding’s doors.
Tracing Lavallee’s story reveals several generations of alumni helping students. They’re paving the way for future careers in exchange for excellent work from interns eager to learn. It’s a long, interconnected chain — and its strength continues to multiply.