Married to your major? Not at WFU

Choosing a major is a stressful decision for many college students because many believe their concentration will put them on a one-way path to a certain career. After all, finance majors go into banking and biology students become doctors, right?

Not so fast. An inside look into the summer internships of four Wake Forest students shows that when it comes to career goals, what matters most is not their majors, but their passions.

Dancing on the Moon at NASA

Briana DiVincenzo

Briana DiVincenzo

When Stoneham, Mass., native and senior Briana DeVincenzo first came to Wake Forest, she kept an open mind when it came to choosing classes and a major. Despite her varied interests, one thing was always certain – she dreamed of one day becoming an astronaut and going to space. With this always in mind, DeVincenzo decided to double major in philosophy and mathematical business and minor in dance.

Then, DeVincenzo applied for a prestigious internship with NASA at the Goddard Space Center in Greenbelt, Md., beating out 133 other students to achieve her dream of studying space.

At NASA, DeVincenzo is currently working on an array of groundbreaking projects that include landing a laboratory rover called “Curiosity” on Mars in August. She also is testing weather satellites to help better predict weather patterns for the Department of Defense as well as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“I have always been intrigued by what exists beyond our world,” DeVincenzo said.  “I am so excited to finally see my dreams unfold.”

Painting her own path

Erin Cassidy

Erin Cassidy

For senior and Virginia Beach native, Erin Cassidy, giving back to the community isn’t just an extracurricular activity, it’s a full-time job. As a religion major with a concentration in public engagement and a studio art minor, Cassidy developed a strong interest in using the arts to promote community development throughout her experience at Wake Forest.

This summer, Cassidy is putting her passions and interests to play through an internship at Red Dog Gallery for Art for Art’s Sake, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting appreciation of the arts in Winston-Salem. She is developing an educational outreach program to pair children from underprivileged communities with local artists in order to forward the organization’s mission to build, educate and celebrate the community through art.

“I was so shocked and excited to find an internship that incorporated my professional goals and personal interests,” Cassidy said. “It is usually difficult to find paid internships in the non-profit sector, but I was able to receive a stipend from the Wake Forest Institute of Public Engagement, which gave me the opportunity to take a step towards achieving my professional goals.”

Tackling public health with an international approach

Preparing for the real world

Wake Forest has created a series of “College to Career” courses designed to better prepare students for life and work after college. Taught by Heidi Robinson, an instructor in the Department of Counseling, and developed in conjunction with the Office of Personal and Career Development, the “College to Career” series has quickly become among the most talked about and coveted elective courses on campus. One of the course’s main focuses is teaching students that the most important decision they make in college has nothing to do with their major; rather, it is discovering the beliefs, values and interests that define them as a person.

Senior Jason Green grew up in White Plains, N.Y., with dreams of becoming a surgeon, but when he came to Wake Forest he realized he had another strong interest – exploring different cultures. Most students interested in medicine pursue internships at local hospitals and laboratories, but Green had bigger dreams in mind.

His passion for learning about new people and cultures, awakened by his studies in anthropology at Wake Forest, led Green to apply for the Richter Scholarship Program to gain funding for research in regenerative medicine at Cape Town University in South Africa. Green’s proposal was granted, and he has spent his summer conducting research with people from all over the world including Sweden, Nigeria, Liberia and Norway.

“My experience in South Africa opened my eyes to larger problems in public health,” said Green, who in also plays on the football team. “Now I know that I want to use my research skills in order to tackle larger healthcare issues in our world, such as HIV.”

Green plans on one day returning to South Africa in order to put his research skills and knowledge to use in order to tackle these daunting issues in public health.

A business-minded approach to event planning

Mary Grace Thomas

Mary Grace Thomas

Junior Mary Grace Thomas already has a firm grasp on where she wants to take her career. Thomas is currently working as an event planning intern at Esprit Productions, a Milwaukee, Wis.-based company that plans conferences, trade shows and business events around the nation.

“As a Business and Enterprise Management major, I thought it would be difficult to break into the event-planning industry,” said Thomas. “Instead, I found that what really mattered was my genuine interest in the event-planning business.”

Her current position includes planning the sounds and lighting at conferences and promoting the events on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. Last month, she flew to Florida to oversee a conference she had helped plan for Siemens USA.

“In addition to learning about what goes into planning events, I have also gained important business knowledge from my internship at Espirit Productions,” Thomas said.  “Like my boss always says, it’s best to under promise so you always overachieve. That’s advice that I will hold with me throughout my career.”

This summer, the Old Gold & Black student newspaper is also chronicling the adventures and experiences of several students in a blog called The World of Interns.”

Categories: For Alumni, For Parents, Personal and Career Development, Student, Top Stories, Wake Forest College