Students at New Jersey Institute of Technology surmounted the extraordinary hurdle of a pandemic by concentrating on academics and credential burnishing experiences even while NJIT reinvented its primary mode of education and heightened its COVID-19 testing and safety protocols.
Converged learning became the new normal, as professors simultaneously taught students in the classroom and online. The new model, which was nationally recognized for digital transformation, required greater communication but ultimately primed students for what they coveted: internships, jobs and admission to graduate programs.
Indeed, while its delivery changed, NJIT remained focused on preparing undergraduates for the workforce. This was particularly important to those who were the first in their families to attend college, as they sought to change their income trajectory for generations to come. Fortunately, they found themselves at a university that Forbes has recognized for student upward economic mobility.
Technology proved crucial to success. In the fall of 2020, NJIT career fairs shifted online to the platform Handshake, where employers interviewed students via web conferencing. Thankfully, undergrads already were familiar with the platform, as NJIT’s Career Development Services started using it in 2018 to share job opportunities; under COVID, it became a hub for one-on-one interviews with companies offering hundreds of internships, cooperative educational opportunities and jobs.
Many opportunities were remote, while others placed students on the front line of the pandemic.
Vincent Jackson ’21, of Newark, interned remotely at Adobe Sales Academy in the summer of 2020, earning Intern of the Week honors and an invitation to return this summer. His latest internship is his eighth in four years, as the business major distinguishes himself in sales and marketing. The Educational Opportunity Program student also interned at RippleMatch, Newark Venture Partners, SpeechKit and ABF Creative (three times).
As the pandemic spread in the spring of 2020, Colette Lichtenstein ’22, of Middletown, worked as a medical scribe at University Hospital in Newark and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, accompanying doctors during patient examinations and documenting findings, diagnoses and treatment plans.
The co-op proved transformational: the biology major added three mentors and hopes to return to University Hospital as a physician after medical school. As Lichtenstein explained, “Working alongside some of the most brilliant minds in the medical field – the University trauma surgeons and emergency medical physicians – really solidified my vision for the next five years: to one day stand in their shoes.”
Undergrads also burnished their resumés by earning prestigious awards, including Fulbright and Goldwater scholarships. In the last two academic years, NJIT had four Fulbright winners and six Goldwater awardees. The Fulbrights enabled students to pursue research and studies outside the U.S. This year, for example, Matthew Cherrey ’20, of Westfield, is creating and implementing abstract models for network security protocols in Germany; Joseph Torsiello ’22, of Elizabeth, is analyzing neutrinos in Canada; and Daniel Meza ’20, of Randolph, will embark on designing biological furniture in Australia.
As students gathered such real-life experiences, they remained focused on the ultimate goal of scoring jobs or graduate admission. And because their education reflected both book smarts and work smarts, world-class employers and grad schools readily embraced them.
In some cases, there was a straight line between internships and jobs.
Catarina DeMatos ’21, of Chatham, accepted an offer from Facebook, after interning there in the summer of 2019. As an intern, the computer science major learned how to build large-scale software from database connections to user interfaces. “It became very clear there would be a path to full-time if I kept doing very well,” DeMatos said. “I felt secure at Facebook. It was a fun place to be and I’d be able to learn a lot there.”
Prudential hired Emily Jensen ’21, of Hackettstown, as an actuarial associate, after the mathematical sciences major interned there the past two summers. She’s entering a six-year rotational program where she’ll switch roles every year. The unique opportunity to diversify her skill set makes her feel “excited for what the future holds.”
Other employers were sold during the interview process.
Accenture hired Lorraine Nunes ’20, of Weehawken, as a software architect analyst, after she graduated with a bachelor’s in business and information systems, in December 2020. At NJIT, she enriched her studies with an internship at a nonprofit and jobs as a technician and office manager – experiences that made her confident she’d close on Accenture.
The top grad schools that welcomed Highlanders included Brown University, which accepted Logan Heft ’21, of Whitehouse Station, into its master’s in data science program. At NJIT, Heft earned a bachelor’s in business in just three years by taking extra classes in the summer and each semester, even while playing Division I volleyball and serving as co-president of the NJIT Investment Fund. Before becoming an Ivy Leaguer, though, he has another task: a summer internship at Global X EFTs. And naturally, in a world still impacted by COVID, the experience will be remote.
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