Muhlenberg’s Revamped Winter Break Externship Program Launches

Students have the opportunity to make connections and explore potential careers between semesters.

By: Meghan Kita  Friday, December 23, 2022 09:50 AM

News Image
Jillian Miu '26 (left) is externing with Pediatric Dentist and Practice Owner at Smithtown Pediatric Dental Dr. Karen Verga '90 during winter break.

This winter break, 49 students are completing externships through the Career Center. These typically one- to five-day personalized experiences, most with alumni hosts, are designed to allow students to explore different postgraduate opportunities. 

The Career Center’s Assistant Director of Experiential Learning Jessica Deemer ’21 organizes the program. “We’re hoping that students take away that early action is important, that career exploration starts right away,” she says. “You don’t have to be a senior to come to the Career Center. We will provide you with an opportunity no matter where you are, whether you know exactly what you want to do or you’re looking to explore new paths.”

Here are some key things to know about this transformative program.

Externships are available to all students, from first-year students to seniors.

The pandemic gave the Career Center the opportunity to rethink their offerings: This externship program replaces the pre-COVID shadow program and has concrete learning objectives for students. Students will explore new jobs and industries, gain firsthand experience in the professional world and learn more about their professional likes and dislikes.

Of this year’s participants, eight are first-year students. Monica Mulhern ’26 (pictured above) externed with President and Managing Partner in Hematology/Medical Oncology at Comprehensive Cancer and Hematology Specialists Dr. Trina Poretta ’92 in Voorhees Township, New Jersey.

“I was interested in an externship as a first-year because I wanted to get a look more into different fields,” says Mulhern, who intends to pursue a biochemistry major on the prehealth track. “Although I am currently interested in pathology, I used to be really interested in hematology … I did [the externship] to learn more about the field I want to go in and solidify that I want to do that rather than something different.”

Twelve seniors also had externships this year. While the Career Center hopes to encourage early career exploration, this year’s seniors largely missed out on in-person experiences due to the pandemic. Many are supplementing virtual experiences from earlier in their careers with face-to-face ones this break.

“We always say it’s never too early and it’s never too late to have these experiences,” Deemer says. 

Students can be matched with more than one externship.

“Our students have such diverse interests,” Deemer says. “Students who express interest in doing two externships can compare and contrast the two experiences.”

For example, Nicolino Berlingeri ’25, a finance and computer science double major, completed an externship this week with Olga Skoropad ’09, manager of data analytics at Novartis in East Hanover, New Jersey. In January, he’ll complete another with Geoffrey Legg ’65, a financial advisor in Allentown.

“I wanted to do both externships because I thought they were both extremely interesting and would help me to grow a lot as a professional, giving me an inside view of two very different professions,” Berlingeri says. “Also, my career goal is to be a quantitative analyst, which is a combination of finance and computer science, so I am trying to build my knowledge in both the financial and tech industries.”

Anam Ali ’25 (pictured above), a prehealth biochemistry and Spanish double major, completed externships with Family Medicine and Obstetrics Physician at Lehigh Valley Health Network-Schuylkill County Dr. Susan Medalie ’10 and Sports Medicine Physician at OAA Orthopaedic Specialists Dr. Jill Crosson ’04.

“Their day-to-day activities were a lot different in the sense that Dr. Medalie also had a faculty position, so her morning was spent helping out the residents, who are still in their training. Dr. Crosson, on the other hand, was seeing patients for the whole day,” Ali says. “My main takeaway was that there is a lot of flexibility in terms of choosing what exactly you want to do within medicine.”

Externships leverage The Muhlenberg Network to connect students with alumni and alumni back to the College.

Many of the 44 individuals who agreed to host students this break (not all got a match) were alumni interested in making an impact on students from their alma mater. That eagerness to pay it forward is one benefit of having so many alumni hosts. Another is that they’re living proof of how Muhlenberg graduates thrive in the professional world.

“This is a tangible way to show what our institution has produced,” Deemer says. “Students are able to see that Muhlenberg successfully prepared these people for these jobs …

It really emphasizes that the academic rigor that we have at Muhlenberg will get you where you want to be.”

Megan Bruhn ’24 (above, center), a psychology major, externed with Mindy Feinberg Liebowitz ’87 (above, left), operations manager at Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly, New Jersey. During her two-day externship, Bruhn worked alongside the direct care staff and helped run the day program for adults with developmental disabilities.

She also was able to bond with her host: “The fact that Mindy was a Muhlenberg alum greatly enhanced my externship experience,” Bruhn says. “As soon as we met, we had a common ground to build off … I loved talking about our favorite places on campus and the benefits of a smaller campus. Mindy graciously offered contact information and resources that reflected my interests that she better understood having gone to Muhlenberg herself.”