Reader Responses

As one of the faculty who has long been involved in the IE Pre-Graduate Internship program, I know its value for undergraduate and graduate students alike with a tiny investment of resources. This is the kind of educational energy that those of us who went into teaching have always treasured most: it is gratifying to view the undergraduates' growth through the internships, and also to see graduate students learn the importance of mentoring and take that skill into their professional lives. Former undergraduate interns regularly contact me to inform me of their successes, some in graduate academic settings, others in more community-based, "entrepreneurial" contexts.

I completely agree with Rick Cherwitz that first- and second-year students -- particularly those from underrepresented groups would be empowered by internships. An academic/community mentorship program would be the kind of educational step forward that President Obama challenged us all to help foster in his State of the Union Address. I support it wholeheartedly.

Andrew Dell'Antonio
Associate Professor, Musicology/Ethnomusicology Division
Butler School of Music
The University of Texas at Austin
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Rick Cherwitz is right to suggest that undergraduates need help in navigating the vast array of academic disciplines and courses that confront them in college. What I believe IE also does (which was not highlighted in his article) is aid the core humanistic mission of universities and colleges.

The array of choices confronting students is most profitably connected when it helps to advance students' dual objectives of preparing for work and living a meaningful life. As a philosophy professor (who trained in Austin) I regularly advise students how philosophy opens them up to new vistas while providing core skills for managing both professional and personal challenges. It is not job-training: it is core-strengthening. The process of training for a job may take four years, or so; but the process of becoming a person is a life-long challenge. This is the strength of IE which most impresses me.

David Hildebrand, Professor of Philosophy
University of Colorado
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PRINTED IN THE AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, FEBRUARY 2, 2010

I graduated from the University of Texas in 2004 with a ubiquitous 'communication' degree and, despite hard work and academic interest, fell nonetheless into an unsatisfying sales job. Years later, I'm at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. I've found my calling, but it took multiple years of indecision and tens of thousands of dollars in loans. Guidance through the undergraduate maze is exactly what I needed. When I finally graduated, I sensed zero connection between what I'd learned in my courses and what was available on the job front Dell didn't care about Faulkner.

The undergraduate experience seems to have become more of a rite of passage than a springboard for success and opportunity, and I applaud Rick Cherwitz for his IE efforts. Tuition dollars should work for the success of the students. A university is only as good as its graduates, after all.

Jennifer Howard
UT Graduate (2004)
Columbia University Graduate Student
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Professor Cherwitz makes an excellent point. As an academic advisor at UT, I am on the front lines with students trying to make sense of academics connecting with careers. The IE academic/community mentorship program is sorely needed; it would help students to better focus, not change majors so many times (thus wasting time and money), and make the most of the course selection. The IE academic/community mentorship would compliment the services offered by the Career Exploration Center and the various Career Services departments on campus and should be a key component of UT's ongoing effort to improve the undergraduate experience.

Debbie Rothschild
Undergraduate Advisor, Department of Sociology
University of Texas
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I believe Dr. Cherwitz and the IE program are dead-on in their approach and ideas. As a current UT student, I can think of nothing more important than connecting what we learn inside the classroom with the outside world. UT does a great job of educating its students with world-class faculty, and it provides boundless opportunities to connect to and engage students with the communities that surround them. What Dr. Cherwitz's idea does is establish a formal link that would cultivate within each student the drive to be the "citizen-scholar."

Keshav Rajagopalan
UT Student
Former UT Student President
Posted on the Austin American-Statesman web
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As a former IE Pre-Graduate intern at UT, I whole heartedly agree with Dr. Cherwitz that the university should begin innovative programs such as an IE academic/community mentorship earlier in a students' academic career. I was fortunate to have been introduced to IE my first semester at UT and had it not been for this program, I would probably still be navigating the often murky waters of academia. I am an underrepresented student at UT (48 years old, female, and Latina). I don't have time to waste nor can I afford to fall through the cracks. It's disturbing that many more underrepresented students at UT are falling through the cracks every semester. IE needs more funding and support from the local community as well as the University if we are to continue to produce citizen scholars who will in turn give back to the community.

Aida Prazak
UT Student
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Since starting at UT I have been deeply troubled by the lack of what you call in your piece "intellectual entrepreneurship". Reading your article really gets me excited, and is just vitalizing in general. I love the idea of a student being able to in essence customize their education, becoming a "citizen scholar", what a great term. I too feel that one's undergraduate years, freshman and sophomore specifically, are the most important. To be able to tailor from the get-go your education sounds blissful to me. I'm definitely interested in learning more about your program already in effect.

Cameron Ingram
UT Student
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Dr. Cherwitz's article struck a cord with me. Two semesters ago I was one of the few freshman students in the IE Internship. At the time, as Dr. Cherwitz says, I had defaulted into a major and was structuring my academic course on a career goal in which my interest was waning at best. One semester with my mentor, however, changed my approach to my education. I was exposed for the first time to graduate life and discovered a passion I otherwise would never have known. I changed my major, started to choose classes based on how they fit my interests, and began doing serious work in the field outside the classroom. Meanwhile, my senior and junior friends, who didn't have this IE opportunity, panic because they are still uncertain about their choices even at the end of their academic careers.

Daniel Conroy-Beam
UT Student
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I fully endorse Professor Cherwitz's proposal. When attending a large university it is often difficult to develop a productive relationship with your advisor. My sessions with my advisor never lasted more than 20 minutes and didn't guide and inform me about everything my major offered. Like thousands of others, I never had the chance to explore the possibilities. Students need to have an IE academic/community mentorship, allowing them to tap into their true interests and discover the possibilities the undergraduate curriculum offers before it's too late to make a degree change. This would add significant value to students' college education. The assistance of an experienced college student and community member as mentors could help younger students make thoughtful academic choices. With such a mentorship, I could have focused on opportunities that were right in front of me. A program like the IE Academic-Community Mentorship not only would benefit underrepresented minorities who lack college prep resources at the high school level like myself, but would be of great advantage to the majority entering college freshmen.

Samantha Guerra
UT Student
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Entrepreneurship not about getting a job, but more about recognizing a need or opportunity within a community and creating innovative solutions to the identified need through your training and expertise. Leading expert Dr. Cindy Iannarelli, President of the Bernelli Foundation, notes that cognitive mapping of entrepreneurial thinking begins as early as 4 years old as the child of the entrepreneur learns over a life time the essential skills of entrepreneurial thinking. Children of entrepreneurial parents are more entrepreneurial. At St. Michaels Catholic Academy (SMCA) here in Austin we are beginning to introduce those skills at the high school level. The overall goal of the SMCA Entrepreneurship Center is to motivate students as emerging leaders to become agents of change who improve society by solving the world's problems through for-profit or nonprofit businesses. This idea of intellectual entrepreneurship offers scholars an avenue for impacting the world outside the collegiate classroom through mentoring others to look beyond the job search and focus on seeking those opportunities to solve the problems of society through innovative solutions. That is very different than looking for a job.

Anonymous post on the Austin American-Statesman web site
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I am a senior at the University of Texas at Austin, and I am a first generation minority student. I would like to vouch for Dr. Richard Cherwitz and his extraordinary IE program. As a first generation student, I did not have the proper foundation and guidance of how to be academically successful at the university level. However, upon enrolling in the IE program I was able to find my niche in a huge school such as the University of Texas at Austin. The program allows students to find a graduate mentor that will show them the possible post undergraduate opportunities and careers they can obtain with their degree of interest. Although, one may misinterpret this as an insult to a student's intelligence for not knowing what opportunities can be obtained in their field of study, I strenuously disagree. I think that students like me who are the first in their family to attend college do not have someone to relate to about college; thus they struggle and the IE program alleviates this insecurity. I am now fully aware of all the obtainable opportunities that are in my future, I have established long term social networks, and I am well on my way to becoming the first person in my family to graduate from college. I could not have done this without the help of Dr. Cherwitz and his program. So, I recommend this program to anyone in the academic world, and especially to first generation students.

Justin Jefferson
UT Student