Douglas Wallack ’16, Magnet Schools of America

Doug-WallackI arrived at the Magnet Schools of America in Washington, D.C. on a Thursday morning.  To be clear, I wasn’t actually at a school for the duration of my Princeternship, but at the office of MSA’s governing body.  From the moment I got there, my alum-host Crystal Moore ’96 was busy at work, tirelessly juggling a huge variety of tasks ranging from data systems improvement to fundraising to organizing MSA’s annual conference in Tulsa.  When I wasn’t shadowing Ms. Moore on the job, much of my work dealt with the conference; I helped collect the information of school district superintendents and other guests who would be invited.

When there was a free minute, Ms. Moore explained to me some of MSA’s governing principles.  I was already familiar with the idea that magnet schools, by definition, have specially focused curricula – think performing arts high schools, or STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) schools.  It seems to me like an interesting and promising solution for American public education, which – if you believe the reports – has stagnated to only middling status internationally.  What I didn’t know about before was MSA’s commitment to diversity and desegregation.  As I understood it, desegregation in schools was pretty much a bridge that the American public had crossed quite some time ago now (I’d figured that it was included as an important magnet school principle as a nod to the organization’s own history or something).  In fact, there is still a lot of de facto segregation in public school systems today, and MSA is trying to fight that.  Everything I read these days contends that education is one of the nation’s most pressing issues, so it was very cool to hear one take on it in person from the field.

For the morning of the second day, I went with Ms. Moore to a talk on “Mayoral Governance and Student Achievement” (basically, the effects of having a city’s mayor head its own school districts) Wallack 1at the Center for American Progress, which is a think tank in Washington.  The talk was something between a debate and a lecture, and apart from serving as a forum for an interesting topic, it was also a meeting place for many of the D.C. leaders, lobbyists, and experts in education.  One thing that Ms. Moore and I talked about afterward was a point brought up by one of the speakers – Neerav Kingsland, CEO of New Schools for New Orleans.  He mentioned several times the importance of having educators run schools.  I could see the wisdom in this, to a certain extent: ownership in the process means that in their roles as educators, the teachers will be held accountable to a higher standard.  But what I didn’t understand was whether Mr. Kingsland actually meant that teachers themselves should be administrators.  While I get the spirit of self-sufficiency and self-regulation, I don’t think this makes sense.  I’ve had plenty of brilliant teachers who could tell me all about analyzing poetry, the French Revolution, or partial derivatives, but wouldn’t make great administrators.  So Ms. Moore and I talked about that for a while and how it is important for education policy to have the big picture ideas, but also pay meticulous attention to the finer details like this.

I’d like to thank Ms. Moore and the rest of the staff at MSA for letting me stick around with them for a couple days.  It was a very cool way for me to see the day-to-day workings of a field of such crucial importance.

Alyssa Lipshultz ’16, Magnet Schools of America

Alyssa-LipshultzI interned for two days at Magnet Schools of America in Washington, D.C. under the mentorship of Crystal Moore ’96, the nonprofit organization’s Director of Organizational Leadership & Development.

During my Princeternship, Magnet Schools of America was preparing for their National Conference that will occur in the beginning of May. To help with preparations, I provided input on the electronic invitation and updated contact information for school districts that will be invited to the event. This latter task required most of my time at MSA, as I worked state by state consulting each district’s website and compiling information. This task gave me a better understanding of the structure of various school districts. My own public school district only had 3 schools: one elementary school for the north half of our tiny town, one for the south half, and a combined middle school for all students. In contrast, as I researched various school districts, I came across districts like the Wichita Public Schools, whose elementary school students have the choice to attend several different schools, some traditional and many with focuses which include aerospace and engineering, communications, computer technology, dual language, environmental, health and wellness, International Baccalaureate, international studies and communication, leadership, literacy, multimedia, performing arts, science and technology and more. Other districts across the country offer a similar array of choices to their students. While I was familiar with the idea of school choice in theory, it was not until I looked through districts’ websites from across the country that I fully grasped what this concept means in practice. Also, spending time at MSA, I learned how these innovative programs regularly bring together diverse students who share a similar interest and then proceed to promote academic excellence. Thus, even the simple task of consulting school districts’ websites in order to compile contact information was a significant learning experience for me, as I was not fully cognizant of the diversity of school options or the success of innovative educational models in the U.S.   

While at MSA, I also had the opportunity to learn more about fundraising. I drafted a grant application and accompanied my mentor to a class on corporate giving at the nearby Foundation Center. This helped me to better understand what non-profit work and grant seeking entails.

I was able to attend MSA’s staff meeting, as well. Everyone at MSA was extremely welcoming, and attending the staff meeting provided me with insight into how each of Crystal’s colleagues contribute to MSA’s work, which is truly a team effort. MSA is a very small office, and, having never worked in a small office setting before, it was great for me to see this team dynamic at play. The staff meeting also gave me a better idea of what MSA’s daily work entails and what kinds of events they hold, as the team was discussing conferences that will occur in the upcoming spring, summer, fall and beyond. MSA’s new blog, Twitter and Facebook pages were also discussed at the meeting, and this really emphasized for me the expanding role that social media has in all sectors. It seems that familiarity with social media is really becoming an essential tool to have in the workplace.

Lunch was another valuable experience at MSA, as I was able to ask my mentor a variety of questions. We talked about her summer experiences during her time at Princeton, her career’s progression, her Princeton thesis topic and more. This helped me to get a better sense of what higher education and jobs I might pursue if I decided to work in education policy. I also was able to ask her more general questions about school choice and school types (charter, traditional, magnet, etc.). Specifically, I brought up some of the controversial issues related to magnet schools that I was familiar with and asked for her perspective. These conversations helped me to gain a fuller understanding of school choice.

Working at MSA was therefore a wonderful experience for several reasons. It gave me the opportunity to experience a small nonprofit Lipshultz 1working environment, which was one of my goals for the internship. It helped me to understand the work and complexity inherent to seeking grants. Speaking with Crystal gave me a better idea of what it might mean to pursue a career in education policy. I also gained an additional perspective on various issues related to school choice and education reform, and I was able to learn more about what public education looks like across the United States. My experience at MSA will certainly contribute to my understanding and viewpoints as I continue to discuss education issues with my peers on campus. It will also affect the kinds of classes and internships I pursue, as I am now more confident in continuing to explore my interest in work related to education policy. I would definitely recommend this Princeternship to anyone interested in education policy or considering a career in nonprofit work.

Thank you very much to my mentor, Crystal Moore, and to everyone else at Magnet Schools of America for giving me this amazing opportunity and for going above and beyond by being so welcoming, friendly and helpful during my Princeternship. I truly appreciate it.

Evaline Tsai ’15, Kirkland & Ellis LLP

Evaline-TsaiThe first day of my Princeternship began with meeting my two Princeton hosts, Federico Baradello ’05 and Jason Thompson ’06, who both graciously showed me around the Palo Alto office of Kirkland & Ellis LLP. After getting to meet many others in the office, I sat down with Mr. Baradello and Mr. Thompson, and we exchanged stories about our experiences at Princeton. It was great getting to hear how similar and different Princeton was just a few short years ago. Mr. Thompson also gave me a brief explanation of what private equity was and the role Kirkland and its lawyers play in the exchange between buyers and sellers of companies.

After this brief introduction, I was shown into my own office with my own computer, desk, whiteboard, and to top it all off, a gorgeous view of the Palo Alto neighborhood. For the rest of the morning, I focused on a reading Mr. Thompson had handed me on tort law. It was interesting to see how the reading I was given related to one of the classes I’m taking this semester, ANT 342: The Anthropology of Law. In fact, the section explaining proximate cause even mentioned a famous case that I had read about in class!

For lunch, Mr. Baradello, Mr. Thompson, and two other lawyers in the office, Lilit Voskanyan and Adam Phillips, took me out to Tamarine, which served delicious Vietnamese cuisine. While we were all eating, they talked about their experiences with the bar exam and gave me some helpful career advice. Afterwards, I returned to my office to read about asset acquisitions. I learned that there’s a lot of technical language that I still have to know!

On the second day of my Princeternship, Mr. Baradello wanted me to help him edit and read over two U Visa applications. Mr. Baradello first explained to me that U Visas were given to victims of crimes such as sexual assault and would help them and their families with temporary work eligibility. It was satisfying to realize that a law degree would not only be useful in a context as a corporate lawyer, but also to help everyday people with pro bono legal work.

After a short lunch at the office with several other associates, Tsai 3I attended an informational meeting with them on non-disclosure agreements. It was fascinating getting to see the actual paperwork that lawyers had to read and mark up (and quite a lot of paperwork there was). I learned that attention to detail is definitely a skill that lawyers need to have since many times mark ups include changing a single word in a sentence to relieve the client of less responsibility.

The Princeternship really gave me an inside look on the life of corporate lawyers and the work environment of Kirkland & Ellis. My experience definitely affirmed my decision to pursue law as a career. I want to thank all the lawyers at Kirkland for their generous hospitality and Career Services for giving me this opportunity. I especially want to thank my hosts, Mr. Baradello and Mr. Thompson, for introducing me to their firm and being so willing to talk to me and answer any questions I had. I recommend anyone who is interested in law to apply for this Princeternship.

Saahil Madge ’16, Juniper Networks

Saahil-MadgeLike so many other Princeton engineers, I had loved COS 126 (the introductory computer science class) so much that I was unsure whether I wanted to switch and become a COS major. Initially, Electrical Engineering was my intended major. I knew that the Princeternship program would allow me to explore the differences and similarities between these two fields, and what better company for this than Juniper Networks, a firm that specializes in networking hardware and software.

At 9:30, I met Hal Stern ’84, the alumnus, and Sreya Basuroy (another freshman) at the Ritz Diner in Livingston. We were really lucky to have Hal as our mentor, as he was not only very knowledgeable about the subjects we discussed, Madge 1but also really kind and funny. Over breakfast, Hal gave a brief history of Juniper, and also explained how he ended up working for the company. He then showed us the different areas that Juniper makes products for, and how the software and the hardware sides work together.

After breakfast, we drove to Shannon Labs in Florham Park, where AT&T research is housed. There we met with Eleftherios Koutsofios, also a Princeton alum, to talk about what it means to really handle data and perform data visualization. Mr. Koutsofios showed us a tracker of all the different data that AT&T has to gather, and the different ways in which the data can be analyzed. The amount of data being generated has increased exponentially in the past several years, and finding patterns now requires breaking up the data into many different pieces, and analyzing those individually. Otherwise, serious problems might only be a small amount of the total data, and would get lost in the traffic.

We then visited Juniper’s office in Bridgewater.  Hal showed us several of the hardware products that Juniper makes, and told us about the elaborate process that goes into making such a product. The chip design has to first be created, and then sent out for manufacture. Simultaneously, they begin building the system for the chip, and creating marketing and sales plans for the system that the chip will go into.  Overall, it can take up to 3 years for hardware to go from design to shipping. In Bridgewater, we also got to sit in on a conference call, where a startup company pitched an idea to Hal, and Hal discussed how their product can fit in with Juniper’s line. This was really interesting, because we got to see how startups can cooperate with large, established companies so that both benefit.

Overall, I learned a lot and had a lot of fun throughout the day. It was really interesting to see how Juniper is able to work with both software (specifically security software) and hardware (routers, data centers, etc.) separately, and yet encourage collaboration between the two areas. I do not yet know whether I want to do Electrical Engineering or Computer Science, but I do know that whatever I do choose will be important and fun.

Michelle Scharfstein ’15, FamZoo

Michelle-ScharfsteinFor my Princeternship, I spent three days with Princeton alum Bill Dwight ’84.  After working for a variety of companies, Mr. Dwight’s passion for teaching his own children how to manage their finances led him to form the company, which is an online virtual bank that helps kids learn good money habits.  He is the CEO and runs the company with his former Princeton roommate, Chris Beaufort.

During my first day, Mr. Dwight explained to me his background, how he started the company, and what he and Mr. Beaufort hope to accomplish.  He gave me many insights into the business world and showed me the many different aspects that go into creating a successful company.  I was introduced to the different programs Mr. Dwight and Mr. Beaufort use to analyze data from their website, for accounting, and to keep track of any correspondences with each other, partners, or customers.  Mr. Dwight also explained to me the different channels through which FamZoo (and other companies) can acquire customers and revenue, and their respective costs of customer acquisition.  These channels include organic subscriptions (customers who randomly find FamZoo through Google, ads, or word of mouth), affiliate subscriptions (customers who read about FamZoo through affiliates who sponsor and promote the company’s products), and partner editions of the product (slightly modified versions that credit unions and banks can promote to their own customers).  FamZoo will soon open another channel of revenue through its newly formed partnership with a prepaid card company, TransCard.  FamZoo and TransCard will offer new Prepaid Card Family Packs, which will allow transactions to and from the children’s cards to be made much more easily and directly.

With this new exciting product being produced soon, my job was to estimate future revenue and profits through Excel models.  I started with a simple original model that only included the organic channel of revenue and then, with Mr. Dwight’s guidance, added to it to include the other channels.  Finally, I also created a model for the amount FamZoo will have to pay TransCard every month given the number of active subscribers using the Family Pack cards.  Creating these models helped me understand the importance of debugging and double-checking everything – with the amount of various costs complicating the process, it was easy to forget a detail or two.  While I was creating these models, Mr. Dwight kept me updated with any new developments and continually showed me more and more of the processes involved in running the company.

Thanks to Mr. Dwight, this week’s work was a great learning experience but was also a lot of fun.  While Mr. Dwight was always efficiently working, he never failed to explain his thought processes to me and he even made sure to throw in a few fun breaks, including a quick photo shoot and nice bike rides to lunch!

Scharfstein multi photosThis Princeternship helped me understand so much more about entrepreneurship, and gave me valuable experience in the field.  I would definitely recommend participating in the Princeternship program to any students who want to learn about a field and have fun doing so!

Esther Rolf ’16, Epic

Esther-RolfDuring my time at Epic, I shadowed Todd Dale, a 2009 CBE alumnus who works as a Technical Services Engineer/ Technical Coordinator. Gina Davis, a 2010 graduate of Princeton working in Human Resources at Epic was also a very welcoming host; she met me at the front desk every morning and walked me to and from different meeting with Princeton Alumni. There’s actually a whole family of Princeton alumni at Epic! I met with David Schmidt, a 2002 graduate working in EDI, KL Huang, a 2011 graduate and a Technical Services Engineer, Emma Schultz, a 2012 graduate and also a Technical Services Engineer, and Doug Wolf, a 2009 graduate and a Project manager at Epic.

It was great to see how alumni were using their engineering degrees in very different ways, andRolf 1 also to understand a little bit more about what working in the real world is like, although I’m not sure if Epic’s campus qualifies as the “real world” – a lot of the time, I felt more like I was in Disney world. The campus is split into several themed buildings (Todd worked in the African themed building, complete with an Indiana Jones hallway). There is a video game themed building, a western themed building, etc. and more in the process of being built. Not to mention, they have a banana chair and a slide!

Going into my Princeternship, I didn’t really understand what a technical services engineer does, other than that every day is a little bit different, they solve problems, and they’re engineers.  After shadowing Todd and the other Princeton alumni, I realized that the job description was intentionally vague. Engineers at Epic are given responsibilities, but they are also given a good deal of liberty in figuring out what kinds of projects they want to work on. For instance, while Todd was mainly working with his customer, he also did some coding and helped with internal structuring questions as part of his duties as a technical coordinator.

I really enjoyed my time at Epic – I learned a lot about what you can do with an engineering degree. It’s refreshing to know that life outside of Princeton can still involve learning, and it can definitely still be fun! I personally appreciated getting opinions from different Princeton alumni regarding major choices and whether I should consider graduate school. It was very helpful to get opinions from alumni working in different positions who graduated from different engineering disciplines at Princeton.

Overall, I had a great time at Epic – I would really recommend this program to any students interested!

Kelly Rafey ’16, Duncan/Channon

Kelly-RafeyAnyone with at least a meager appreciation for cool design, a creative atmosphere, and an excellent view would be thrilled with the opportunity to spend a day at Duncan/Channon, a midsized advertising agency in San Francisco, CA. I spent the day shadowing Adam Flynn ’08, a brand strategist for D/C who made sure that my emerging perspective of the advertising industry was comprehensive, and that I understood every person’s independent but critical role in the industry.

The day began with an all-staff meeting in the Tip, D/C’s own bar and lounge perched innocently on the roof of the Grant Building. The meeting gave everyone the chance to gather and debrief before a hectic week. Production showed their two latest commercials, the Creative Director gave a presentation on gender discriminationRafey 1 in advertising, and I got the chance to chat with Robert Duncan, D/C’s President and Founder. These discussions continued over the day as I met copywriters, strategists and filmmakers, and learned the responsibilities of each position within the company. I was exposed to sides of advertising that I am seldom conscious of as a consumer: The purchasing and placement of the media used to broadcast advertisements, as well as the relationship between advertisers and their clients. I was able to watch several “manifestos” (videos designed to prove to a client that D/C understands the client’s perspective and mission, and therefore is qualified to reshape and promote the client’s image). In short, I walked away from the Princeternship with a satisfying and overall understanding of what an advertising agency does – from social research to creative conception, from media strategy to physical production. It was a fantastic and genuinely enjoyable opportunity to learn about an industry that I initially knew very little about.

I must mention – though it has little to do with the advertising agency itself – Rafey 3that Adam was a spectacular host. A good part of the day (lunch and dinner, at least) was stuffed full of entertaining conversation about Princeton, professors, particularly good commercials, Star Wars, foreign genres of dance and self-defense, the Western literary canon, etc. And yet most of it did tie back to social and cultural understanding – essentially the foundation of the advertising industry. It was a fantastic experience, and one that I would enthusiastically encourage anyone interested in advertising, design, culture, or social studies to repeat.

Gabriela Villamor ’16, Dominion Fertility

Gabriela-VillamorSpending spring break with my host Dr. John Gordon ’85 at Dominion Fertility was an incredibly eye-opening experience into a specialty field of medicine. My goal for this Princeternship was to solidify my interest in the medical field and to gain experience in a field that I was incredibly fascinated with but never really understood beyond textbooks and the Internet. Shadowing Dr. Gordon for three days allowed me to accomplish this goal.

On the first day, I experienced so much in such a short amount of time.  Dr. Gordon kindly picked me up at 6:40 am from the nearby hotel where I was staying.  We first headed over to INOVA Fairfax Hospital where he gave a lecture to the hospital’s resident students. Afterwards, we attended the OB/GYN unit’s business meeting at the hospital that focused on the importance of patient care.  After the conclusion of the meeting, Dr. Gordon and I made our way to the Dominion Fertility office in Arlington. There, I was introduced to the welcoming and friendly staff and saw what Dr. Gordon’s job as a reproductive endocrinologist and co-director of the clinic entailed. He performed vaginal ultrasounds on many patients at different stages of their treatment. Some patients, for example, were being checked for their follicle growth progression as well as their uterus lining thickening, and some were being checked for the growth of their baby. I even got to hear a baby’s heartbeat! Besides the ultrasounds, Dr. Gordon performed various procedures, including an intrauterine insemination (IUI), a form of infertility treatment in which sperm is directly placed into the uterus via a catheter, and an in-vitro fertilization (IVF) transfer in which an embryo (a fertilized egg cell) is placed into the uterus of the patient. Dr. Gordon also held many consults with new and returning patients. I was fascinated by the patients’ stories and the options available to them based on their specific circumstances. Dr. Gordon displayed the ideal way in which to interact with patients. I admired his supportive, yet honest, advice about the different types of fertility treatment that he believed would be most effective for the individual patients given their various physical, financial, psychological, and ethical circumstances.

Additionally, not only was I able to see theVillamor 1 clinical side of the office, I was given the opportunity to observe the laboratory aspect of the infertility treatments. Dr. Gordon gave me an initial tour of the office, where I saw live sperm cells under a microscope. I later spent time with the lab coordinator, who also gave me a tour of the laboratory which stored frozen embryos, egg cells, sperm samples, etc.  I was also allowed to view blastocysts under a microscope and was advised of the different procedures that the laboratory staff perform.

On the second day, we started at the Arlington office and Dr. Gordon performed more ultrasounds, checking on the follicle growth of many patients. We later left for the Dominion Fertility’s office at Fair Oaks Hospital where Dr. Gordon held several consults and performed ultrasounds. It was exciting to learn that just after one day I was able to recognize the images of the ultrasound, including the uterus and ovaries.  After spending some time at the hospital branch, we returned to the Arlington office and attended an office meeting with the four doctors of the clinic, including Dr. Gordon, two of the head nurses, and the lab coordinator. They discussed the different infertility treatments and the progress of their patients. They also discussed ways to improve their patient care and run the clinic. It was interesting to see this business aspect of the clinic, as it is important even in a medical setting. 

On the final day, I was able to view more ultrasounds and hear consults at both the Arlington and Fair Oaks offices. I also spent more time in the laboratory where I was able to watch an intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), a procedure in which a single sperm cell is injected into an egg cell. This was one of the most amazing things to see.  It was a great way to conclude this Princeternship program.
During the time we commuted each day, Dr. Gordon and I had great talks in the car about our Princeton lives, his journey to becoming a reproductive endocrinologist, and our families in general.  Moreover, he challenged me with many topics, including the understanding of statistics and ratings of medical clinics and how it affects patients.  Dr. Gordon had sent me books Villamor 2that he wrote regarding his specialty, which we also discussed.  He also presented me with tough hypothetical and ethical situations and asked me questions based on such situations.  Dr. Gordon has proven to be great teacher and mentor.  Each day was a new and rewarding experience. At the end of it all I could not help but think, “Wow, this is something I would really love to do.”  This experience helped me understand how challenging a medical issue such as infertility can be from the physical and biological aspect to the psychological impact on patients.  It left me with an overwhelming motivation to help others with infertility or any other kind of medical issue.  I definitely encourage anyone who has any interest in the medical field to take this opportunity. I deeply appreciate Dr. Gordon’s commitment and the experience that I gained from this informative and inspiring Princeternship.

Angela Wang ’16, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Angela-WangMy Princeternship took place at the Washington, D.C. headquarters of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the newest federal agency aimed to help consumers navigate financial markets and make smart choices. The Bureau organized a well-structured spring break program; I, along with two other Princeton students, Thomas and Luke, was part of a fifteen-student group with others from Harvard, University of Maryland, and Charleston College.

Day 1:
On the first day, we were given a broad overview of the work done at the agency and the opportunities for us students to get involved, be it through an internship or post-graduation. A representative from each division, many of them senior-level executives, prepared short presentations and answered questions about what they did and why they liked working at the bureau. We stopped for lunch at a hip Asian fusion restaurant and wrapped up the day with a panel discussion with four recent graduates who were a part of the CFPB’s two-year rotational, development program.

Day 2:
On the second day of the program, we delved deeper into the work that the Research, Regulations, and Market team does at CFPB. LingLing, a Princeton alum and researcher, gave us an assignment related to a rule the Bureau had issued. We were asked to read through publicly submitted comments on the rule and determine what should be changed based on the opinions. This simulated the position of a consultant.

We had lunch with three Princeton alumni, Chuck Brown ’02, Ling Ling Ang, and Andrew Trueblood ’05, at a great restaurant called Blackfinn. It was great to hear how their different backgrounds all converged at the CFPB, from economics to WWS to politics. In the afternoon, we got a tour of the CFPB building and finished up the day with a discussion with members of the RMR branch about our findings from the comments. They plan to release the official rule later and were interested in finding any particularly compelling arguments. It’s cool to know that they actually take into account the opinions of individuals in their operations.

Day 3:
On the final day of our Princeternship, we focused on the supervision division, which regulates financial institutions. After an awesome lunch at Farragut Square where a number of food trucks are parked, we spent the afternoon with the division. Andrew gave a brief presentation on how the agency determines which institutions to supervise, and two of the Director’s Financial Analysts (one a Princeton alum!) gave us a task that was part of their own project to create portfolios for various financial institutions. My partner and I had to research the State Employees’ Credit Union and create the first part of the portfolio, which any employee within the Bureau would then be able to review to learn more about SECU.

I couldn’t believe those three days passed so quickly;Wang 1 it was such a great experience to meet students from other universities and fellow ORFE classmates. The agency is truly a unique and fascinating workplace with a start-up culture. I am very interested in the quantitative and consultant-like work they engage in and would love to get involved in the future, as an intern or even a DFA! I was inspired by the vision of the presenters, the warmth of employees, and their genuine interest in sharing their work. I have to thank the alumni who we met and worked with and Bruce Arthur, our coordinator, who made sure we were always accommodated. He mentioned they may hold this program in the fall and spring, and I strongly encourage anyone who has interest in finance, public service, economics, or any related field to participate! I never would have had the chance to get such a comprehensive view of a government agency, and the experience piqued my interest in public service, a field I had not considered beforehand! This was a great exploration of my professional options, and I look forward to further involvement with the Princeternship program.

Timothy Tran ’15, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Timothy-TranThis year’s CFPB Princeternship was organized a little differently than traditional Princeternships. The reasons for this were that the CFPB has only been in existence since July of 2011, and this is the first time the CFPB has hosted a Princeternship. The Princeternship consisted of 15 students – 3 from Princeton, 3 from Harvard, 2 from Carlton, and the remainder from the University of Maryland. Rather than shadowing a single Princeton alumnus throughout the three days, we met with a whirlwind of people from all over the organization, and had the opportunity to learn about their specific role within the CFPB.

Day 1 – Monday, March 18th, 2013
The first day of the Princeternship was spent listening to speakers from around the organization to obtain a high-level understanding of the CFPB’s mission and structure. We attended talks with staff members from the Operations Division, the Consumer Response Center, CFPB Talent Acquisition, the Project Management Office, the CFO’s Office, External Affairs, and the Director’s Financial Analyst program. Each talk lasted between 20 and 40 minutes, started with an overview of the department, and left about 10 minutes for questions at the end.

The talks were incredibly diverse, and ranged from discussing the logistics of how to inform consumers about financial products to the thrill of shaping the CFPB during its infancy. A key theme that emerged throughout the day was that the CFPB looks like a government agency, but is currently run with an entrepreneurial feel. At 1100 members strong, the CFPB employs a remarkably flat organizational structure, rather than the stereotypical layers of bureaucracy for which DC agencies are well-known. Because the CFPB recently rose to power in July of 2011, much of the current staff members’ time is devoted to developing processes that will govern the agency’s actions for decades to come.

We took an hour for lunch at the nearby Café Asia, which gave us the opportunity to meet the other students, as well as speak with Bruce Arthur (the coordinator of the event) in a more informal setting.

Day 2 – Tuesday, March 19th, 2013
Day 2 was spent with the Research, Market, and Regulation Division (RMR) of the CFPB. We attended talks about Residential Real Estate Transactions and Fair Lending. The bulk of the day was spent performing an analysis of public comments made in response to a proposed rule consolidating the Truth in Lending Act and the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act. From working on the project with the other students, I gained an enhanced understanding of the mortgage underwriting process and how the CFPB regulates mortgage underwriting standards.

Overall, Day 2 involved less listening and more doing, which was a welcome change. I learned a lot about the CFPB’s challenge in crafting rules that do not adversely impact too many businesses, remaining in compliance with the legislation governing the CFPB’s existence, and effectively regulating the consumer finance industry.

For lunch, the group split by university and met up with respective alumni working at the CFPB. It was great to get to know Chuck, Ling Ling, and Andrew over lunch at Blackfinn restaurant, and to see how they made their way from Princeton to the CFPB.

Day 3 – Wednesday, March 20th, 2013
The last day of the Princeternship consisted of talks regarding Transparency and FOIA at CFPB, a DC Jobs Panel, interacting with the Director’s Financial Analysts (DFA), and a hands-on Supervision activity.

The DFA program was created to attract undergraduates that might otherwise work at well-known Wall Street banks, and to harness their data analysis skills for the strengthening of the CFPB’s policies. I had a great time speaking with the current DFAs, listening to their past experiences and future plans, and learning about how they influence the CFPB on a daily basis.

During the DC Jobs Panel, a former consultant, Tran 1a former Congressional staffer, and a former executive branch employee, all of whom were now working for the CFPB, discussed their careers and offered advice about working in Washington, DC. This was one of my favorite sessions of the Princeternship, because it gave us the chance to explore why people from all kinds of careers decide to join the CFPB.
Through this Princeternship, I learned more about the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in three days than I ever would have imagined possible. It was a great opportunity to meet people from all kinds of academic backgrounds – private vs. public, MBA vs. JD vs. MPA, consulting vs. banking – and to learn about why they chose the career paths they chose. It was also a great opportunity to meet students from other universities with similar academic interests.

Shout-out to Chuck Brown ’02 and Bruce Arthur for making this Princeternship a great success!