Spring Immersion Program Exposes Students to Non-Profit Sector

 For the past seven years, Colgate alumni Jim Smith ’70 and Bobby Dorf ’80, in partnership with the Sophomore Year Experience and Career Services, have run Spring Immersion Programs to introduce sophomores to the non-profit sec-tor. The alternative spring break pro-gram offers options in Washington D.C. and New York City to cater to students who are considering futures in non-governmental organizations or the arts, respectively.

“The idea from my perspective in both Washington and New York is to open people’s eyes to career possibili-ties and the link from liberal education to career paths,” Smith said.

Created in 2006, the program in Washington D.C. allows students to visit various non profits ranging from development organizations to advocacy groups to international NGOs.

“Up until this trip I rarely had the opportunity to meet with alums to hear about their career search process or even learn about what Colgate graduates do outside of Wall Street. It seems like there is this stigma on campus that we need to go into the private sector. This program just showed that Colgate grads are do-ing big things in all sectors, all over this world,” senior David Esber said.

Following the success of the Washington program, Smith and Dorf collaborated in 2009 to design the arts counterpart.”The whole focus was on how diverse the arts sector is and how people with liberal educations, like you get at Colgate, can find a path into the arts,” Smith said.

This program allowed alumni to ex-tend their knowledge and experience to other Colgate students.

“I would like to see more bright people drawn into the non-profit sector or the arts world and I know that there are talented people who can have rewarding careers in the non-profit sector who are attending Colgate and I’d like to help them,” Dorf said.

The arts program incorpo-rates theater, dance, opera and the visual arts, affording students opportunities to gain an under-standing of the system, meet se-nior members in the sector, have dinner with involved alumni and attend performances.

“My favorite part was definitely going to see all the performances. We saw the opera Khovanshchina, War Horse, Lincoln Center Jazz, and the Paul Taylor Dance Com-pany. But aside from that it was incredible to meet all the Colgate alumni in New York City that are involved in the arts. Colgate alums truly are everywhere,” junior Chloe Holt said.

The spring immersion pro-grams are catered to sophomores because they can apply what they have learned to make a difference on campus during their junior and senior years.

“Many of the students have been able to take skills away and use them either directly or indirectly in [campus] associations or outside of Colgate in their pursuit of extracur-ricular interests or in their pursuit of life studies… and job searching,” Dorf said.

“I think everyone that partici-pated in the arts immersion [pro-gram] came away with a realization about how little a presence the arts have at Colgate – especially dance. With the guidance of the alumni that led the program, other stu-dents and I are beginning to think about what we can do to change this – whether through greater collaboration within the arts, in-creased administrative support or the installation of a dance program at Colgate,” Holt said.

According to Smith, other colleges and universities would like to emulate Colgate’s Spring Immersion Programs.

Prospective participants must write an essay and have an inter-view as part of the application pro-cess. A past participant conducts the interview, underscoring the importance of connection among Colgate associates.

This theme of the Colgate bond runs throughout the entire program.

“I’ve met alums from the past 30 odd years doing interesting things so I’ve made some great friends in classes from the 2000s back into the 1970s,” Smith said.

Dorf said the program enables him to share in the dialogue of what’s happening on campus now and stay connected with the student body.

In addition to forging personal relationships with alumni, partici-pants gain an advantage in enter-ing their chosen fields through the alumni network.

“The connections I have made from this trip will, and already have given me access to future potential careers in ad-vertising and the arts, which I believe is the most important thing to have in a struggling economy,” junior Carolina Swift said.

“Having the opportunity to visit with as many alums as we did showed the breadth of the alumni network and how willing graduates are to meet with and talk to current students. It was reassuring and it was eye-opening,” Esber said.

Dorf said that he uses the pro-gram to share his passion with in-terested students at Colgate, which he is equally passionate about.

“It’s very much about giving back and sharing,” Dorf said.

“The spring immersion trip was one of the best experiences I’ve had at Colgate so far. I would highly en-courage all sophomore students to apply because through this program you learn not only about the ‘real world’ outside the Colgate bubble, but also about yourself while expe-riencing one of the greatest cities in the world,” Swift said. “If it wasn’t for Bobby Dorf and Jim Smith and their amazing program, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.”

Although the trip has been popular every year, Career Services has not released information about future programming.

Contact Julia Queller at [email protected].