Spring Break Immersion Trips Give Students a Taste of the Real World

Jenn Carey and Katie David

While for some college students, the words Spring Break bring to mind images of beaches and wet t-shirt contests, the Colgate Spring Immersion Fellows spent their spring break in boardrooms and business attire. Over the course of this year’s spring break, three groups of Spring Immersion Fellows skipped surf and sand to learn about the non-profit sector. After applying for the program and going through a group interview process, twenty-three sophomores were selected to participate in this educational spring break program. Eight students interested in non-profits focusing on the arts traveled to New York City, while a group of eight students interested in Civil Society non-profits and a group of seven students interested in education non-profits traveled to Washington D.C. With the help of alumni Sally Sachar ‘81, Robert Dorf ‘80, Jim Smith ‘70 and Dean of the Sophomore Year Experience Kim Taylor, The Center for Career Services planned a weeklong trip featuring informational meetings, performances, career guidance and networking opportunities with Colgate alumni and other prominent sector leaders.

The idea of foregoing a typical college spring break to engage in career exploration may seem like a difficult choice to some. But according to sophomore Jessica Solcz, a member of the Arts trip, the decision was an easy one to make.

“The chance to visit such amazing arts organizations over break was too good to pass up,” Solcz said.

Over the course of the Spring Immersion Arts trip, Solcz and the other fellows met with 15 senior artistic, executive and policy leaders of non-profit and research organizations to discuss each organization’s mission, vision, structure, community development, public policy and their relationship with the cultural economy as a whole. Solcz, who is a member of the Colgate Ballroom Dancing Club, was particularly interested in non-profit organizations associated with dance and was particularly excited about visiting the American Ballet Theater, a prominent ballet company.

“Our visit to the American Ballet Theater was a once in a lifetime experience: we met with the general manager for almost three hours and learned the ins and outs of ABT. This sort of thing doesn’t normally happen” Solcz said.

Solcz also made sure to commend the leaders of the trip, both from the Center for Career Services and generous Colgate Alumni for making these experiences possible. After the trip, Solcz is able to reflect and understand how much she has learned about the unique arts non-profit sector and hopes others can appreciate this industry as much as she does.

“It must be understood that the art world is not to be taken lightly: it is just as intense as working on Wall Street. The main difference is, you will encounter much more entertaining characters who live and breathe art,” Solcz reflected.

Sophomore Annette Shantur, who participated in the Washington D.C. Civil Society trip, echoed Solcz’s praise of the trip.

“During the program, we met with a lot of charismatic and inspiring people who brought their work and their passions to life. I think we all left with a better idea of what we’re working toward in undergrad. I would definitely recommend the program to any sophomores who think they might not want to go the Wall Street route, or simply want a taste of what else is out there” Shantur said.

For Shantur, the trip to D.C. allowed her to further develop her own interests. When asked about her favorite site visit during the trip, Shantur identified a meeting with a representative of the Small Act, an organization dedicated to helping non-profits use social media effectively.

“Our speaker from the organization Small Act was definitely one of my favorites. She was young and very dynamic, engaging all of us even though it was about mid-afternoon nap time. Her title at Small Act is “Chief Love Officer,” and she is in charge of outreach to customers, making them feel valued and also working with the employees of Small Act. This interpersonal work is exactly what I’m interested in” Shantur stated.

Even though the Spring Immersion Fellows did not return from their spring break with the traditional tan, the fellows would argue that what they gained throughout the course of the trip was significantly more valuable. Whether in Washington D.C. or New York City, the sophomores involved in the program left their weeklong trips with countless business cards, a greater knowledge of the nonprofit sector, fantastic memories and many new friends.