Job Experience

ILR winter programs offer diverse opportunities
Thursday, January 7, 2016

Some ILRies will not just be enjoying their winter breaks, but also gaining professional exposure or work experience through the Freshman Externship Program and Winter Intersession Program.

Over winter break, the freshman program has 41 sponsors offering 78 shadowing opportunities, with 62 students filling 69 opportunities.

The Winter Intersession Program, which gives students on-the-job experience through substantive, hands-on, short-term assignments, has 49 sponsors offering 88 opportunities, with 83 students filling 84 opportunities this year.

“For students, it’s a great way to confirm a career interest or find out, ‘Gosh, this is not for me,’” said Marcia Harding Zeller, assistant director of the Office of Career Services, who leads the programs with two student assistants.

It’s also a great way for alumni sponsors and other friends of the school to preview a possible summer intern or full-time hire, she said.

Popular with students, the programs feature opportunities in corporate human resources, labor relations, labor, government, law, arbitration/third-party, nonprofits, consulting, financial services and other fields, Zeller said.

A winter internship for Spencer Velarde ’16 a year ago with Synchrony Financial in its Kettering, Ohio, office, was followed by a summer internship at the company’s Stamford, Connecticut, office.

After graduation this May, Velarde begins a full-time job with Synchrony’s compensation and benefits team.

Known by the acronyms “FEX” and “WISP,” the programs are designed for ILR students to gain work exposure, she said. Additional opportunities are always welcome since student interest exceeds availability in both programs.  

The freshman program was started about 25 years ago, and the Winter Intersession Program began in 1974, according to Zeller.

The WISP Program offers both paid and unpaid internships. Unpaid WISP internships must meet federal guidelines set by the Fair Labor Standards Act and are selected through a random lottery in November. Sponsors select WISP interns for paid WISPs from a pool of applicants.

Freshmen program participants select  one-day shadowing opportunities through a November lottery.

“This is a great way to connect with talented young adults and influence their career decisions; freshmen often have many interests, and their exposure to specific career fields aids in identifying interests and skills,” Zeller said.

Elise Balelo ’18 participated in the FEX Program last year at the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Asset Forfeiture Section and said it was a great first exposure to the professional world.

“During the FEX, I was able to sit in on a few really interesting cases and see what a typical day in the LA DA's office looked like,” Balelo said. “I was also able to meet and speak with a few judges about their career paths and what they do on a daily basis.”

More information about the programs is available by contacting Zeller at