Contributing to the Community

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the 2018 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they’ve been spending their summer. You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Vincente Guallpa, SEAS ’20

This summer I decided to contribute to the Philadelphia community. Since I have experience working with youth, I decided to intern at The Rotunda. My role as counselor in The United Block Captains Association enabled me to make a big impact on the local community. From teaching the campers how to play four-square to painting silly faces on paper, I was able to form healthy bonds with all the campers.

One of the memorable experiences was the day we had a face paint activity. After minutes of begging, I finally let the campers paint my face with any color. After all the campers were finished slashing at my face with different colors, I saw myself in the mirror and realized I looked like a mad man.

Here is the breakdown of a typical week. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the camp had different instructors come in to teach the campers arts, crafts, science, and sports. On Wednesdays, we would watch a movie and then go for a long swim at the pool. Part of being a counselor is to engage in every activity and to keep the campers motivated and make sure they are having fun. As I have taught them many new games and fun facts, they have also taught me some cool new things. One camper taught me many different dances from the video game Fortnite. Another camper taught me how to play basketball (yes, I do know how to dribble, but I never played a game with people).

With all the fun we had it is always important to remember why this camp exists. Philadelphia, specifically West Philadelphia, can be tough sometimes. With organized crime and drugs plaguing certain parts of the community, it can be difficult to raise a child in these conditions. Children have unlimited potential, but that can all be diminished if they do not have positive influences in their lives. This is where The United Block Captains Association fills in the role. By providing a safe and engaging environment, children are safe to play with their friends and learn some cool new skills.

The most important skill that I relearned was how to think like the youth. To successfully work with youth you must know how youth think and feel. This helps empathize with them and understand how they process emotions. We must always remember that their emotions matter. Given this, one of the most important questions that I asked each camper is, “How do you feel?” as an invitation to express themselves. When a camper felt down it showed in their behavior. By asking them this question, I was giving them the opportunity to let out some of those emotions through a conversation. This helps to show them how powerful communication is and, more importantly, how to form healthy relationships.

At the end of the day, I am grateful for having been given the opportunity to help my community by working with youth in West Philadelphia and hope to continue serving my community this way.

Dispatches from the 2018 Austin Film Festival Writer’s Conference

J. Michael DeAngelis, Digital Resources Manager

The past two years, it has been my privilege to attend the Austin Film Festival & Writer’s Conference.  It is a unique event, featuring a festival of films and shorts that are screenwriter driven and a conference on careers in writing for film, television, theater and podcasting.  As a writer myself, I find the conference to be both invaluable and energizing.  I can’t thank my colleagues at Career Services enough for supporting my travel to the conference and it’s my pleasure to report back to our students and alumni on what I learned this year.

Here are some of the highlights and takeaways from this year’s conference.

There are more jobs than ever in television, but it’s harder than ever to make a living at it.  That was the main topic of discussion during a live taping of the Script Notes podcast. Fast Company ran an article earlier this month called “The Death of the Hollywood Middle Class“, which goes into detail about how the proliferation of streaming services which offer typically shorter seasons than broadcast networks, effects the living of writers, who are paid per episode.  As the way in which television content is produced and delivered changes, unions like the WGA are having to try and stay ahead of the curve.  I highly encourage everyone interested in writing for television to both read the full article and listen to the Script Notes episode as well.

Podcasts are more popular than ever, but it’s still “the wild west”.  As the host of our very own CS Radio podcast, I was particularly interested in attending the podcasting seminars.  While CS Radio is a non-fiction, informative show, there’s an entire culture of audio dramas gaining popularity via podcasting.  Shows like Bubble, Girl in Space, The Black Tapes and Wolf 359 exist in an exciting intersection of classic radio dramas and DIY garage band grunge.  Due to the relatively low cost of producing a podcast, along with direct consumer support from platforms like Patreon, writers are finding a way to get noticed by telling stories they’re passionate about and recording them as podcasts.

There’s no one path to a career in entertainment.  I had the great pleasure of getting hear the legendary producer/director Roger Corman talk at the conference.  He spoke about how he had gone to college for engineering, despite always wanting a career in the movie business.  Struggling to find work in entertainment, Corman got a job as a civil engineer.  After just four days on the job, he walked into the HR department and said “This has all been a terrible mistake!”  He did land a job at Fox as a script reader and then went to graduate school at Oxford where he studied literature before returning to the studio.  Corman noted that his engineering degree helped him quickly learn the technical side of filmmaking, while his literature studies helped him understand what made a good story and how to give a movie a solid structure.

I’ll be talking more about what I learned on next week’s CS Radio.

CS Radio – Episode 72: “Executive Director Barbara Hewitt”

We’re pleased to welcome Career Services’ new Executive Director, Dr. Barbara Hewitt to the podcast.  As our listeners may know, Barb has been with Career Services for twenty years and has recently transitioned into this leadership role.  J. Michael and A. Mylène talk to her about her vision for Career Services, the changes she’s seen in the field and the changes she foresees still to come.  Enjoy!

In The Office of the Mayor

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the 2018 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they’ve been spending their summer. You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Sabrina M. Aponte, SP2 ’19

This summer, I was able to be a part of the Philadelphia Mayor’s Internship Program (MIP), a 10-week unpaid internship in which interns commit at least 20 hours a week working in a city government department and 5 hours on Fridays to a group project and networking panels. This experience has been unforgettable. My initial goals for the internship were to learn more about city government managing operations and gain new skills. However, I not only obtained skills and knowledge useful to city government; I also saw myself grow personally and professionally. This part of the internship was truly worthwhile.

At Penn, I was able to develop strong research, writing, and policy analysis skills. The one thing I knew I was lacking was public speaking, which is especially important for someone wanting to work in government. Since high school, I had always been afraid or never felt the need to speak in class. I always listened in order to learn, but I did not see the importance of speaking to my personal, academic, and professional growth. During interviews for summer internships and informational interviews this summer, I found it hard to articulate my thoughts on social and political issues and what I wanted out of an internship. I was rejected by five out of six positions because of this. Through the Mayor’s Internship Program, I was able to practice public speaking as I worked side by side the Parks and Recreation Chief of Staff and Commissioner, as well as on Fridays during networking panels.

Every Friday, city government officials from different departments would come speak to us. This was our chance to learn more about the work they do, ask questions, and network after the panel. Networking was something I knew everyone said was important to do, but that I tended to avoid because speaking to numerous people at one event is intimidating. I would rationalize to myself and say, “Well, as long as my résumé looks great, there’s no need for me to network.” I soon learned from each panelist that networking was pretty much how they got their jobs. When you work hard in your position and meet new people, you can make an impression on them and they will remember you the next time they or someone they know is hiring. Friday panels gave me a chance to network on a smaller scale through individual informational interviews with city officials. At first, it was hard for me to talk about what I wanted to do and learn from the interviewee, but eventually it became easy. I was able to make each interview flow like a conversation, and by the end of the internship, I got offers to work for a couple of officials during my senior year. If it wasn’t for summer funding, I wouldn’t have been able to participate in this program. I wouldn’t have been able to afford traveling to Center City every day nor pay for rent and food. I especially would not have been able to grow professionally and personally like I did nor be offered paid fellowship opportunities with the city government during the school year. Having summer funding is a true blessing and I am more than thankful to have been selected to have it.


Passion and the STEM PhD Statement of Purpose

Caroline Wilky, Associate Director

Many applicants to STEM PhD programs assume that they must convey their passion for their research subject in their statement of purpose. They are convinced of the importance of demonstrating to the admissions committee that they are obsessed with their field of choice and have been for a long time. This often results in statements of purpose that begin with anecdotes about how an applicant has loved science since she was a little girl, and spent her childhood raising tadpoles or reading anatomy textbooks. These passion anecdotes rarely if ever work and often have the opposite effect on readers. Moreover, they waste the little space that you have to convey what the committee is really interested in: your research interests, research experiences, and your case for why this program and department is the place for you to make contributions to the field.

The instinct to demonstrate passion is not, however, wholly misguided. They way to do it is through your description of your research, which should be sophisticated, informed by current scholarship and methodologies, and engaged with the concerns, questions, and problems the field you hope to join is interested in solving. It is not enough to describe what you did in the lab. You must show that you understand why you were doing it and where your project fit in the lab’s goals and the field’s priorities. The goal is not to come across as a precocious science student, or a competent research technician, but rather as an intelligent, motivated, and creative thinker capable of contributing new knowledge to your field. In other words, your passion comes through in how you understand and describe your research, not from your personal motivations for research, however meaningful and true they may be to you.