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Student Turns CLAS Alumni Connection into Internship

rachel2In the summer of 2013, Rachel Laffitte, a political science and business management major and psychology minor, decided she wanted to get a head start on developing her career opportunities.  Though she was only a rising sophomore, she figured that it’s never too early to start.

So Laffitte signed up for the fall CLAS Career Advisor Program, an initiative sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the UConn Alumni Association that matches individual students with alumni working in their field of interest. Now, only a few months later, the connection has given Laffitte an internship, guidance for navigating her career options and – perhaps most importantly, she says – a personal connection to a group of people who will continue to help her plan her career options.

“I really liked the idea of being able to go to someone for a second opinion about careers,” says Laffitte. “I think by not signing up, people are missing out on learning about what other jobs are available for them.”

The experience taught her that UConn’s network of alumni and supporters can really make a difference in the lives of fellow Huskies.

“I always see the sign, ‘Students Today, Huskies Forever’ and I think that’s really true,” says Laffitte. “Even twenty years out of UConn, people still know about events on campus. People just stay with the school.”

 

“What made Rachel successful was her well-roundedness and that she was adaptable,” says Kaiser. “I think the liberal arts and sciences education builds those people skills, gives you a strong foundation for a broad base.”

 

Laffitte’s curiosity in the field of labor relations matched her with James Kaiser (CLAS 1991, international relations individualized major), Managing Director and Co-Owner of the family operated Kaiser Whitney Staffing, located in New Haven.  She says that from the very first email she received from Kaiser, she could tell that he was invested in her future.

“He really wanted to make a personable connection,” says Laffitte. “He made me feel very comfortable about asking him for advice.”

After maintaining a weekly correspondence throughout the fall semester, Kaiser was impressed with Laffitte’s skills and enthusiasm and offered her a winter break internship at Kaiser Whitney’s human resources office.

Kaiser says a major reason he wanted Laffitte to intern at his company is her willingness to stretch her boundaries.

“Rachel is very open-minded,” says Kaiser. “She was willing to take advantage of the connections available to her, and learn something from it.”

During her internship, Laffitte worked to establish communication with the company’s clients, made cold calls, and conducted research on tax exemption policies. She says the small, family atmosphere at Kaiser Whitney was one of her favorite aspects of working for the company.

“Everyone was very nice and friendly,” says Laffitte. “They would take time out their day to show how to do everything, even the little things…like how to print on letterhead.”

Kaiser attributes many of Laffitte’s most impressive characteristics to her liberal arts education, which he says gives students the ability to be flexible with the types of jobs they seek.

“What made Rachel successful was her well-roundedness and that she was adaptable,” says Kaiser. “I think the liberal arts and sciences education builds those people skills, gives you a strong foundation for a broad base.”

During the 2013-2014 academic year, the CLAS Career Advisor Program has matched 100 students with advisors. Since the mentors and their mentees communicate primarily through phone calls, e-mails or videoconferencing, Caitlin Trinh, Director of Alumni Relations for CLAS, says that students are exposed to a variety of career pathways they wouldn’t find just in Storrs.

“The program’s strength really lies in its virtual nature,” she says. “Our students are getting perspectives on the working world from all over the country and even the world, which can only help them in developing their careers.”

After hearing about some of Kaiser’s experiences traveling throughout Europe and learning Spanish in Costa Rica for six months, Laffitte was eager to study abroad. This summer, Laffitte will be participating in the UConn Social Entrepreneur Program, which aims to empower local residents with the skills and materials they need to run their own businesses. She will continue to work remotely on social media projects for her internship at Kaiser Whitney during her time in Central America.

Laffitte also says that her internship experience in human resources will aid her in making a positive impact on the lives of the Guatemalans.

“I’ve learned that people come from all different walks of life, and you really have to listen to everyone’s story,” she says.

By Samantha Ruggiero ’14 (CLAS)


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