Two Things Worth Living For

This is the last 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 spent their summer. You can read the entire series here.

This final entry is by Heather Finnegan, COL ’19

The opportunity to devote the summer to my creative work helped me to explore new styles as a poet and solidify my decision to continue perusing writing as a career. Working one-on-one with Jason Zuzga, a professor I met during Queer Theory, pushed me to consider new forms for my work, including the sestina, the epic, and the modified sonnet. The feature poem of my summer collection, On Average, is a twelve-part chronicle about a young gender non-conforming person, Ave, who miraculously grows gills during puberty. With Jason’s guidance, I was able to push the narrative form I learned so intensely during my studies at the South Carolina Governor’s School for Arts and Humanities into queerer, post-modern territory and create a feeling of mystical awkwardness that could touch any person coming off age or struggling with gender identity. 

Many of my new poems have a dream like quality to them. During my sophomore year at Penn, I was diagnosed with major depression. I slept excessively and felt distant and fuzzy most days. My body of work reflects that headspace, focusing not only on the difficulties of mental illness, but also the resilience and nuance of those in the recovery process. Much of this body of work derives its energy from that process, as well as the restorative powers of engaging with the natural world. The unknown is abundant in wilderness. The unknown, too, is a core element of my queerness and my struggles with mental health. At times, this can be absolutely horrifying. And at times, the wonderful potential of these mysteries is exhilarating.

The following poem engages nature as it can be found in Philadelphia. Homing in on the foliage of West Philly as well as the crawling creatures of Center City shows that even in an urban environment, nature can be found by an observant onlooker. Likewise, even when depression leaves one feeling numb and stuck in a mundane and oppressive system, hope can be found in celebrating the sensation and liberation of the body. This is the uplifting nature of giving oneself over to the queer, the volatile, and the feral parts of our everyday lives.

Two Things Worth Living For


The heat

In the east, the garbage standing in line

Behind the Ritz Carleton hotel, rich

And maggot loved. This city, full

Of life, recycled, re-claimed.

From the Center where a prostitute

Shakes her straight shoulders at me,

Sideways, as if she’d get a dime only for dancing

The chacha up the sidewalk. Her kudzu bush

Creeping out the edge of cotton shorts. I smile.

Almost stop to ask what she’s selling and

How much—as if this block with the rainbowed

Crosswalks could be a farmer’s market for sex.

Peaches, sweet corn.


Back west

The blocks become pines, oaks,

Peonies trembling for a taste of breeze.

The kinked, glistening garden snakes in my garden

Make love knots together behind Mexican heather.

When the sun pounds us like this

All afternoon, demanding every last drop of egg

White fluid we can fathom from under our skin.

Sweating like this, we have not felt so deathly

Dehydrated, nor absolutely alive since last year.

And you with your ball cap. And I with my dirt soaked

Denim would beg her fuck us breathless

With her stone rays

All day.

Real Estate Technology

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 Katrina Arman, WH ’20

This summer I had the opportunity to intern at a real estate technology startup called Steignet in Philadelphia. I was inspired to work there by the CEO, AJ Steigman, a man who possesses great passion, drive and belief in his business, and someone who thinks on his feet at all times. The startup describes itself as a ‘Bloomberg terminal’ for the residential real estate market, and in brief is an arbitrage program that uses machine learning to scan millions of housing units to identify real time mispricing’s in the single family residential real estate market. Steignet developed this program in order to make more effective investments in the real estate market to generate superior alpha for its investors. It plans to investment its own capital in projects using the program, as well as lease the program to private real estate firms.  

When I first started the job, I was put onto the Business Development team whose main goal was to work on investment pitches, market research as well as outreach. There were about 20 interns and we each worked individually, but met with the CEO once every few days for a large group meeting.

Working so directly with the CEO of such an up and coming startup was what really stood out in this internship for me, as at larger firms you wouldn’t get to work so directly with senior management. Additionally, the amount of responsibility I was given was more than I could have asked for. The CEO made me responsible for all of the interns after a few weeks on the job, and so I had to effectively delegate tasks to the teams, track their progress and be the point of contact if they had any issues.  The learning curve was extremely steep and every time I met the CEO he would have a new task for me that expanded on the previous one, with an added amount of importance and responsibility. His insight was also very valuable to me and triggered an interest in technology and real estate I didn’t know I had.

I truly felt, within the first few weeks, that I was an integral member of the company, and every one of my actions was making a difference.

About a month in to the internship, the CEO had to leave for a business trip abroad and the team had to keep on running operations whilst he was gone. I was at the forefront of this as the intern manager, and so I laid out expectations and delegated tasks in terms of importance, created deadlines and timelines and worked productively. I had the biggest responsibility, and ended up speaking to various company directors and negotiated an important deal for the firm. The fact that the CEO trusted me so much as to leave the negotiation of this deal in my hands was very exciting and I worked very hard to do it well.

In general, the progress that our intern team had made over the course of the summer was extraordinary and the sense of teamwork in the firm was also something special that I haven’t seen anywhere else.

Overall, this internship showed me the inner workings of a startup that will help me understand how much blood, sweat and tears really goes into building a successful company from the ground up, and gave me valuable communication, negotiation, management (both team and time management) skills, as well as leadership experience that I can carry through to any endeavor I pursue next.

A Whirlwind of Emotions

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 Johany Dubon, COL ’20

Applying to internships entails a whirlwind of emotions. One of those is the constant feeling of comparison to your peers. Everybody wants to secure the perfect summer internship – educational and challenging, yet exciting and flexible. However, the search for the perfect internship becomes increasingly difficult when you realize the monetary barriers that may prevent you from finding such an internship. You realize that money is not a barrier for everyone, and it is easy to get frustrated when it feels like you will not be able to pursue your passion because it is too expensive. In this way, securing funding can be quite competitive and is a stressor in and of itself.

            I was so thankful to find out that I was granted funding by VPUL for my summer in Washington, D.C. As a Political Science major, I hoped to have a political summer internship in D.C. to start preparing myself for a career in politics. When I began the housing search, I quickly realized how expensive living in D.C. was. Soon, the possibility of interning in D.C. started to feel like less of a reality. Costs of rent, food, and transportation started to pile up faster than I had expected. I seeked funding resources through a few means but my internship either did not fit the description or I was not selected due to the number of applicants. In the end, I was selected for funding. The money I received was invaluable to me and my ability to intern at The Raben Group this past summer. Without it, I would not have had the ability to meet the amazing professionals that work at Raben, and I would not have been able to explore and network in D.C.

            This past summer, I was an intern in Raben’s Issue Campaigns practice area. I had the chance to participate in the planning and execution of various campaigns and learn how campaigns are started and maintained. One of these campaigns was the campaign by the Friends of the American Latino museum, which aims to build a new Smithsonian museum dedicated to American Latinos. To my excitement, when my supervisors noticed how intrigued I was by this campaign, they offered me 2 tickets to the Smithsonian African American History and Culture Museum. I had been trying to secure tickets all summer, but had no such luck until a fellow Raben surprised me with tickets!

            During my internship, I bettered my writing abilities, worked with clients that are bettering the world, and most importantly, I interacted with a variety of people who inspire me everyday. I am so appreciative for this opportunity!

Untitled Entertainment

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 Derek Cano, COL ’19

Coming to a university like Penn has been one of the best experiences of my life. They have provided me, a first generation low-income student, the means to afford and attend a world class institution. Once again, Penn has gone above and beyond to offer me professional opportunities that truly have truly made a difference in my career development. This summer I had the incredible opportunity to intern for Untitled Entertainment in Beverly Hills. Untitled is an entertainment management company most known for managing clients like Madonna, Naomi Campbell, Emma Watson, and Uma Thurman.

My daily tasks at Untitled ranged from a variety of responsibilities. Since it was a medium sized office, I was able to take on a bunch of tasks. As all internships go, I cleaned the kitchen, sent out mail, delivered packages, and printed materials. However, specific to this internship I had the opportunity to get experience working reception (usually a starting place for many in entertainment), reading scripts, printing casting materials, writing coverage for managers and assistants, and covering desks for assistants. Each of these tasks that I would get to perform gave me a comprehensive understanding of what kind of everyday procedures go into being a manager in entertainment. This entertainment as whole helped me realize that I definitely want to get into entertainment management rather than agent work.

The entertainment industry as whole is quite complex and massive. Before coming to Untitled I had very little experience or knowledge of what negotiations, deals, and discussions go into large projects like movies or television series. This internship helped me a get a solid grasp on what film, television, and Broadway management are like from the perspective of talent representation. That is, those whose career’s are to represent actors and actresses.

One of the first big distinctions I learned this summer was the difference between a talent agent and a talent manager. At first this distinction was passed on me, I once thought they were the same but I soon learned that agents are meant to find and book roles for talent. Every actor or actress typically has an agent whose purpose is to find them roles in Television or Films. However, the manager is quite different. Of course they are involved in booking their clients with roles, but their purpose is to create careers for their clients. That is, they are tasked with managing the overall career of the performer. The manager tends to be a good friend to their clients, having multiple discussions throughout the weeks about a variety of topics from new roles to ordinary things like vacations. One time this summer, a manager at Untitled was discussing vacation plans with her client (Uma Thurman) and asked her assistant (who I was shadowing at the time) where Montenegro was? Silly right. Well they didn’t know, but luckily I did so I was able to get on the phone and speak to Uma Thurman about Montenegro. Therefore, as you see through this anecdote the role of the manager is much more personal with the clients than that of the agent.

Go with the Flow

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 KaJaiyaiu Hopkins, COL ’19

As an undergraduate sociology major, the chance to participate extensively in qualitative research does not come along often. When the opportunity presented itself to not only gain valuable, marketable skills in my preferred field but to also engage in the type of work that I love, I was more than ready to accept the offer. With the help of funding from Career Services, I was able to do just that.

My research assistantship at Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kakuma, Turkana County, Kenya was an invigorating experience. The time and effort expended for practicing qualitative and quantitative methods of sociological research has made me a better (amateur) sociologist; working with people from all walks of life and all over the world has made me a better professional and person. It is difficult to compact such an adventure into bullet points, but I’ve decided to anyway:

1-Learning to “go with the flow”

Academic life for students at Penn is, more or less, carefully orchestrated. Professors and staff are dedicated and try to create an environment that facilitates learning and development. While admirable and often quite helpful, this model isn’t adequate as the sole preparer for professional life—especially as a qualitative sociologist. There is nothing like real-world and consequential work that challenges you to manage the surprises, ups and downs, and curveballs that professional life that are surely coming in the professional world. Kakuma certainly had more than enough twists and turns to figure out (with some help of course).

2-Cooperation and Social Navigation

Kakuma is a complex web of refugees, international organizations and NGOs, independent researchers, the local population and so on who all live and work in the same place together and must somehow figure out how to coexist. Poverty, geographical isolation, disease, water shortage, etc. are terrible realities of life there, yet refugees every day find a way to get things done, to be savvy and find a way by working together and taking advantage of the opportunities they have. The struggles in my life are in no way comparable to those of the refugees I met and worked with, but I learned valuable lessons about collaborating in and navigating social and professional networks to make the most of a situation. They taught me to take advantage of the resources that I have and to do what it takes to get to where I need to be.

The immersive experience I had this summer can’t be replicated in a classroom or possibly anywhere else than exactly where I was. I had the guidance of advisors to help me with building critical skills for my field and I learned to how to manage myself and my work in fluid situations and come out mostly unscathed. My journey as a research assistant in a situation foreign to anything I’d ever done before is undoubtedly an essential building block in my professional and personal development.