A semester away: Sewanee launches New York City program

Promotional poster for the New York City study away program. Poster courtesy of the Career Center.

Amelia Leaphart
News Editor

For roughly two years, the Career Center and Global and Strategic Partnerships have worked towards the new study away program in New York City. Partnering with Centre College and Rhodes College, Sewanee has received a grant from the Mellon Foundation to collaborate on study abroad and study away programs. 

Scott Wilson, assistant provost for global and strategic partnerships, says, “We don’t have a lot of domestic programs which involve internships. This is a great opportunity for students in areas that we might not normally reach, such as areas in the arts and theater. They might have the opportunity to do internships that lead to gainful employment.”

Wilson also referenced the advantage students have with connections to alumni and faculty, which may help in the business and journalism fields. 

Centre already had a similar program in Washington, D.C. Since D.C. was already covered, New York was the next idea. 

“You may think Chicago or any major US city would work well,” said Kim Heitzenrater, director of the Career Center, “but because New York has so much going on in theater, visual arts, business, and policy and public service it really does cover almost every industry that you can think of.”

Heitzenrater’s main role has been to collaborate with her colleagues at Centre College and Rhodes College as well as seek out possible internships for students. 

“So far, my role has been to go to New York and talk with alumni who may be potential internship sponsors,” Heitzenrater said. “I also think it will be interesting to have a mentor network for Sewanee students who go to New York, and there’s great interest on behalf of Sewanee alumni.”

Heitzenrater just learned about the career interest of the students interested in the program. 

“Some align with the alumni I’ve talked with and some are outside of that,” she said. “I also wanted to pattern [internship opportunities] after the real world, so students won’t just be handed or placed in an internship. I still want students to hand in a cover letter and resume. Ultimately, it will be up to the internship sponsor to decide whether that student interns with them.”

Heitzenrater commented on how students interested in the program so far are inclined either towards the arts/ creative writing or NGO work. She expected business-inclined students to be very interested, but so far this first round of students are drawn towards the arts and public service.

Wilson says they’ve developed two different classes for theater and history students: one about the history of immigrants in New York City and one that looks at theater production.

For the theater program, Wilson says it won’t just be “going to shows, but seeing the production process step by step in a way that will be eye-opening to students.”

For the academic internship, Sewanee will utilize the Career Center to help with placing students in internships as well as hiring someone to work in New York City part-time to help arrange internships.

Wilson says, “It’s not like we’ll have ten internships and look for people to fill them, instead, we’ll look to see who the applicants are and pair them with appropriate types of internships.”

 For the theater course, Wilson says they’ve hired a production manager of a local theater in NYC. 

“The plan is for him to accompany students on a number of visits to see plays,” he said. “In addition, they’ll have the opportunity to meet with stage managers, production managers, actors, costume designers and have those meetings before and after the production. So it’s not just going to see theater, but having an opportunity to speak with people about what the vocations of working in theater are like.”

For the history course, there is a faculty member at Rutgers University who is one of the official historians for the boroughs of New York City.

Wilson said, “He deeply understands the local history, and has actually written a book on the immigrant experience in New York City. The plan is for students to meet with that person every week for a class session, and there will be a number of field trips associated with that class. The goal will be understanding how immigrants have transformed the city and the immigrant experience.”

Wilson said the plan is to run the program every fall. This is the program’s launching, but “we expect this to be a staple of our new programs,” said Wilson. 

Heitzenrater believes this program will open doors for Sewanee graduates in New York City. 

“The Sewanee network is a really strong, powerful, and helpful network,” Heitzenrater says, “I think that having students there for even longer than a summer will benefit them because, in addition to coursework, an internship, and a mentor network, they’ll just be able to be there and have coffee with alums. Alumni love to meet and help current students.”

Edit: The presidents, study away directors, and career center directors of Centre, Rhodes, and Sewanee have decided to move the launch of the program to Fall 2021 in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.