Category: The “Real” World

All the Small Things – Confessions of a Soon-to-be-Adult


Name: Saznin Mehta

Major: Public Health

Hometown: Alexandria, VA

Year: Class of 2012


Now that it’s March of my senior year, I’m beginning to realize how dangerously close I am to becoming A Real Person. You know, someone with a job and an apartment and bills and, gasp, responsibilities. Even though I’ve lived off-campus for two years and have more or less gotten the hang of taking care of myself (laundry is still a struggle), I’m about as close to reaching real adult-status maturity as your average toddler. I knew coming into my second semester that I needed a smooth transition to post-grad life, something that would give me a taste of the real world without requiring me to abandon my comfortable college bubble. With that in mind, I began applying to internships in DC and finally landed one at the UN Foundation.

This, I thought, would be the perfect segue to impending adulthood. I would commute to DC two days a week, work remotely from Baltimore on those days when I had class, and gain valuable experience at an amazing organization. I’ve had my share of internships before, but never during the school year, so I braced myself for a heavier-than-usual workload, which at Hopkins is no small feat. I went to the mall and bought myself a few blazers and slacks and some sensible shoes so I’d look the part. Now was my chance to prove that I could act it, too.

Here’s the part where any other blog would launch into ‘A Profound List of Things I’ve Learned,’ but I’ve decided to go in another direction. Sure, I’ve had my fair share of challenging learning experiences – meeting deadlines, handling a million projects at once, learning programs and procedures very quickly, rectifying mistakes gracefully – but I’ve also run across some subtle yet equally important lessons that have proven vital to getting me through the day, such as…

  • Don’t email people on Monday mornings before they’ve had their coffee. They’ll be in an exponentially better mood after 10 AM, and it’ll show in their responses.
  • Never stand on the left side of Metro station escalators unless you want to incur the wrath of a million angry commuters.
  • The best way to wake up at 5 AM and stay up: leave your alarm by the milk and cereal. Food always triumphs over sleep.
  • Write stuff down. If I don’t make a note of a task right when I get it, it might as well not exist.
  • Turn your phone off, not just during meetings, but also when you’re out with people. Little known fact: the world will not end if you don’t answer that text. And who wants to be friends with someone who’d rather hang out with their iPhone? That’s right: no one.
  • Smile at strangers. Sounds cheesy, but getting a big grin in response is enough to turn even the most horrible day around.

… and many more. Profound revelations these are not, but they’ve taught me to be perceptive, proactive, and productive. And if the last few weeks have taught me anything, it’s that the smallest things can make the biggest difference. The best part of my day is not when I’ve finished answering emails or completed a big project or dazzled my boss with my efficiency; it’s when I give myself a chance to improve my day through the little things. When I’m content with the most mundane aspects of my life, the more important things seem like a piece of cake to handle. So will my ever-growing list of little things help me grow up? It remains to be seen, but then again, I’m sticking to yet another little nugget of wisdom: take it one day at a time.


From the Classroom to the Government


Name: Brian Diederich
Year: Class of 2012
Major: International Studies
Hometown: Westlake, OH

Having wanted to study International Studies for as long as I can remember, current events have been a major part of my academic life. From reading the local newspaper every day when I was younger to studying the foreign relations of every country from Israel to China, it is something I have indulged myself in nearly every day of my life. So when it came time to search for internships for the summer between my Junior and Senior year as an undergraduate, there was one place that instantly jumped to the forefront: the United States Department of State.

I hadn’t known anyone that had ever interned or worked there before, and I had absolutely no idea of how to go about the process whatsoever. In addition, the fact that I was studying abroad in Turkey at the time did not help me in gaining much help about the process. Thankfully, even while I was over five thousand miles away, the Johns Hopkins Career Center was able to help me through the often-confusing process. While my journey abroad ended in January of the following year, the process of obtaining a coveted internship at the Department of State did not. As I became flooded with security clearance paperwork that Einstein himself couldn’t decode, the Career Center was again able to help me sort through the mess.

After the month long process, having made my way through the endless field of paperwork and security clearances, my first day arrived in the summer of 2011. As I sat on the train from nearby Penn Station in Baltimore to Union Station in Washington, D.C., I couldn’t help but wonder what was in store for me. I had always heard about what the Department of State did from the news, from different forms of American policy to where the Secretary of State was going to be visiting that day.

After making my way through security I was escorted up to the office in which I would be working: the Office of United Nations Political Affairs. For the first time, I would see all of the international relations knowledge put into application in the real world. Throughout my time there, I had the opportunity to see the inner workings of American policy firsthand: how the United States communicated with its embassies and international organizations, how the government worked on an individualistic basis – and most importantly – how the foreign policy of the United States was developed on a daily basis. I had completed other internships before at a wide range of organizations and companies, but they feigned in comparison to what I witnessed every single day at the Department of State. As new developments occurred around the world, I would witness the immediate response to each event and how policy eventually worked its way from the desk of an individual to the front page of national newspapers. I also knew that the research and writing I did on a daily basis would contribute to this process; that what I did played a role – no matter how small – in the development of American foreign policy.

After having spent a summer with the Department of State, it is impossible for me to view current events in the same way. Whether learning about American policy in class or reading about it in the news, I always think about the individuals behind these policies, and all of the work done in order to make it a reality. This internship has given me a new perspective that I am sure will continue to affect me the rest of my academic career.

Senior Year?


Name: Laura Elsener

Year: Class of 2012

Hometown: Marin County, CA

Areas of Study: Economics and Entrepreneurship & Management


As the summer begins to wrap up, I find myself starting to think about returning to Hopkins for senior year. Wait – senior year? That’s right, there’s no stranger feeling than realizing this upcoming year will be the last of my undergraduate experience.

Astonishment aside, it’s nice to reflect back on the past three years. Though initially it’s unsettling to realize how fast they’ve gone by, I also can’t believe all the amazing experiences I’ve managed to fit into the past few years…

Most of the activities I’ve gotten involved in have been a product of chance. Like most students, I perused the booths at the student activities fair and signed up for far more clubs than one could conceivably join. Out of the 20+ mailing lists that I joined, I did manage to pick a few clubs to continue with. One of those was Save the Future, a financial literacy tutoring group.

$ave the Future

$ave the Future

Save the Future pairs Hopkins undergraduates with inner city Baltimore teenagers. JHU tutors teach the high school students about budgeting, credit cards, and other personal finance basics. I joined as a tutor, and have now been President of the club for 2 years. It’s a great leadership opportunity that I was lucky enough to have early on, and it eventually led to a new endeavor called Building Bright Ideas.

Through my experience with Save the Future, I realized the Baltimore high school students had an interest in business and entrepreneurship. I met with another student, Kate Vacovec, and with the generous support of the Center for Leadership Education, we co-founded Building Bright Ideas 4 months later.

Building Bright Ideas teaches high school students about entrepreneurship and important managerial and leadership skills. It’s an interactive and activity based program that relies on small group cooperation and teamwork. Starting a group from scratch was a lot of work, but it has been beyond rewarding. Seeing the engaged and excited students energized Kate and I. We’re looking forward to expanding and improving the program this Spring and can’t wait to meet the new students we’ll be working with!

It was a great experience to be part of something so new like Building Bright Ideas. It often represents an opportunity to get significant leadership and truly impact a group’s direction. This holds true for my experiences with the new JHU chapter of the American Marketing Association as well. Still in its early stages, students are given the opportunity to assume leadership positions and contribute to the group’s long-term strategy and marketing community. I joined as a sophomore and was privy to the executive board meetings and helped plan the group’s Second Annual Alumni Panel. With the effort of this year’s executive board – we were able to significantly boost attendance and campus exposure.

As these experiences evidence, there are plenty of opportunities to volunteer and discover your passion at Hopkins. If you want to start something new as Kate and I did, the resources and support from the University are invaluable. If you join an existing group, the potential to learn and improve the program are boundless.

Though it may seem like the last three years have flown by, I’ve accomplished a lot, made some unforgettable friends, and learned valuable lessons both inside and outside the classroom. Our time at Hopkins goes by so quickly because we’re surrounded by our friends 24/7. So here’s to a great 2011/2012 school year, whether it be your freshman, sophomore, junior, or senior year!

CLE Experiences


Name: Ava Scheininger

Year: Class of 2012

Hometown: Westfield, NJ

Area of Study: Economics, Entrepreneurship and Management (minor)


I knew one thing when I entered Hopkins my freshman year—I wanted nothing to do with pre-med. I had thoughts of majoring in Applied Math, Economics, International Studies, or maybe even some form of Engineering. I really didn’t know. Ultimately, I majored in economics, and minored in Entrepreneurship and Management run by the Center for Leadership Education (CLE). However, now that I am entering my senior year, I look back and realized that I really majored in Entrepreneurship. I know most of you are thinking, “Wait, Hopkins doesn’t have an entrepreneurship major.” Well, you would be right. Let me explain.

I read an article in the Wall Street Journal written by Scott Adams, the creator of the Dilbert comics. Adams explained that he too was an Economics major, but throughout his college career he had “mastered the strange art of transforming nothing into something.” The Center for Leadership Education has provided me with many of the necessary skills to do just that.

I have taken almost every class offered by the CLE—from marketing, to finance, to management and leadership. While it is impossible to say which class was my favorite, the Entrepreneurship class I took last fall (Fall 2010) probably has had the biggest impact on my future. Each week we were required to get together with our group and come up with a new business idea. In week 1 our assignment was to come up with a retail idea. I knew my idea would be a great business—custom made jeans targeted to female athletes. As a member of the Johns Hopkins Women’s Soccer team most of my friends are other athletes and we all had the same sentiment regarding jeans—they just don’t fit. To my surprise my group, which consisted of three senior boys, loved the idea.

For a final project we each had to individually take our favorite idea, or a new idea, and develop a business plan. I decided to run with the idea of custom jeans. I wrote an entire business plan for True Blue Jeans Company, and the more I worked on the plan, the more I realized not only how feasible of an idea this was, but also how it really filled a market need.  By January I had filed LLC papers with the state of Maryland and I was officially in business. My professors were extremely helpful throughout the spring semester with tips and advice about marketing tactics and ways to bring my product to market. By the end of the spring semester I had made progress, but not as much as I had hoped. I decided that instead of taking a summer internship, I was going to work for True Blue Jeans full time.

This summer I have made incredible progress and dealt with my fair share of, what seemed to be, disasters. I have been involved in so many aspects of business, something no internship would have enabled me to do. I have found experts in garment manufacturing (which was more than necessary because I have no experience in design!), worked to develop our jeans, filed for a Trademark for our brand name Chuck Street, and so much more. I conducted science experiments in my driveway to determine the effects of bleach on different denims (something my dad was not so happy about) and attended a major denim tradeshow.

In the fall I plan to take a course with a several professors from CLE called a “Practicum in Entrepreneurship”. This course will allow me to meet with professors weekly and discuss my business, my progress, and get their help on how to accomplish my goals with True Blue.


To bring this full circle, I also organize an event hosted by the Women’s Soccer Team called KICKIN’ IT WITH COLLEGE KIDS. Every fall we invite special needs children from the Baltimore area to come to campus and play soccer with the team. Each child is paired with a buddy who is a member of the team. It is a great day for everyone involved—children, parents, and players alike.

These are just two examples of turning “nothing into something.” Hopkins has an extremely supportive community. If you are interested in joining a group or club there are so many to choose from. If you want to start a group that is not represented on campus, the students and faculty are incredibly helpful and often times, interested.


I know that Johns Hopkins is best known for work in the medical field. When I told some friends that I was coming to Hopkins, but that I wasn’t going to major in pre-med, or public health, most of them looked at me like I had five heads. But, if you are interested in business, Hopkins is a great place to come. It is a small community, with professors who have actual experience in what they teach, and care not only that you learn the material for their course, but also that you are prepared to take classroom subjects and apply them to any internship or job you might have. In fact, many professors will even help you find that perfect internship.

I know that when I was looking at colleges talking to students about programs and their social life was really important to me. So, if you have any questions about CLE, or Hopkins in general, please post them here and I will be more than happy to respond!

What I Did Last Summer


Name: Brian Shell (@JHU_Brian)

: Class of 2012

: Aberdeen, NJ

Area of Study:
Environmental Engineering

In this guest blog entry, I’d like to write about what I did this summer. Each year, tons of Hopkins students head out to internships – whether they’re based in Baltimore or Botswana. I was fortunate enough to obtain an engineering intern position at AECOM in Laurel, Maryland which is part-way between Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

Our office building in Laurel, MD.

Our office building in Laurel, MD.

Obtaining an internship position is overall not difficult. This year I waited a bit too long, and found myself looking for an internship in February. This is later than generally desired, but really worked out for me. As it turns out, a ton of project work had prevented our Projects Director from looking for a summer intern during the fall. Thanks to a friend of Admissions_Shannon, I was able to meet the Project Director and was asked to come in for an interview.

AECOM is a large technical services company – the acronym actually stands for Architecture, Engineering, Consulting, Operations, and Management. AECOM employs some 50,000 employees with offices in more than 100 countries. They’ve been ranked the #1 engineering design firm for several years in Engineering News Record, and now fall at the #1 spot on the Architectural Record list, too. AECOM’s business lines are: Building Engineering, Construction Services, Energy, Environment, Planning, Design + Development (PDD), Program Management, Program, Cost, Consultancy (PCC), Transportation, and Water. Our office in Laurel operates in the Water business line.

The reception area in our office.

The reception area in our office.

Many AECOM offices originally operated under different consulting firms before being acquired by AECOM. For instance, AEOCM has 3 offices in Maryland, but just a few years ago all three were operated by separate companies, and probably were somewhat of competitors. Our office in Laurel had been a Metcalf & Eddy (M&E) office. M&E was the nation’s oldest environmental engineering consulting firm, started in 1907 by Leonard Metcalf and Harrison Eddy. The firm really brought water and wastewater treatment technology throughout the US. M&E even wrote a series of textbooks, started in the early 20th century. Today the textbook series continues, with books on such innovative topics as water reuse. There is a great sense of pride felt by those who work with the M&E team, and I feel very fortunate to be a part of this legacy.

So now that you know the history, what did I actually do? Well, I can’t get into specifics on a lot of the projects. The client-consultant relationship is something we take pretty seriously. Also, the drinking water supply of the Baltimore/Washington area essentially lies in our hands, so many of our projects required security clearances before I could become involved.

My Cube: Before

My Cube: Before

My Cube Now. It’s become a little more cluttered as the summer has progressed.

My Cube Now. It’s become a little more cluttered as the summer has progressed.

Overall, our projects focus on the drinking water filtration and wastewater treatment plants in the Baltimore/DC area. In this area, the Chesapeake Bay has been severely impaired over the years due to excess nutrient loading – both from nutrients (like nitrogen and phosphorous) leaving “point sources” like treatment plants’ treated sewage effluent, and also from “non-point” sources like chicken farms on the DelMarVa peninsula. Regulations have been enacted to require treatment plant upgrades to keep these nutrient pollutants out of the Bay. And engineering firms are needed to plan, design, and sometimes supervise the construction of these upgrades – that’s mainly where we come in.

We’ve also been looking towards some of those non-point sources, in the form of stormwater management technologies, and stream restoration. Our office also does a fair bit of water reuse, which is of particular interest to me. I worked with my advisor, Dr. Edward Bouwer, of the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering on the issue of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) and water reuse for my first two years at Hopkins.

Right now I am involved in the design of a water reuse system that will take treated wastewater effluent and use it as irrigation water for a golf course for one of our clients. This is a particularly innovative solution that makes so much sense given the issues of water scarcity that we hear about daily. We just began the design use for this project as my summer internship ended, so I am very happy that I have been made a permanent AECOM employee so that I can see this project through to its eventual completion. I have had a great time learning and growing professionally at AECOM and look forward to what will come in my future after I graduate this May.

How a BME Became Enthralled with Business


Name: Neil Philip O’Donnell

Year: Class of 2012

Hometown: Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania

Area of Study: Biomedical Engineer (Major)/ Entrepreneurship and Management (Minor)


When I first came to Johns Hopkins campus as a freshman in Biomedical Engineering, I had little interest in business and finance. I like many (wrongly) assumed that Hopkins only had great opportunities in medicine. Yet, in the fall of my freshman year, I took a business course to begin to complete my distribution requirements. I regard this decision as the most important that I have made while at Johns Hopkins University. By taking the class Business and Engineering Management in my freshman year, I not only learned about how firms turn new technologies into commercially viable products, but also the myriad of opportunities within Johns Hopkins Center for Leadership Education.

After learning more about the CLE, I signed up for Save the Future, a Baltimore based not-for-profit group which teaches Baltimore High School Students the fundamentals of Business and Economics. As I tutored my high students in the basics of banking and investments, I realized that I had a zeal for business that I had never really pursued. I interviewed to become the Vice President of Save the Future. The founder of the club, Luke Kelly-Clyne, saw my brimming passion for finance and chose me for the position. This leadership position has been an amazing opportunity to enrich Baltimore and enhance my knowledge of business and investment. During every session, the high school students will ask me a question for which I have no answer, like “how exactly do you get a credit score?” Ultimately, these pointed questions asked by Baltimore high school students encouraged me to further develop my knowledge of the business lest I be left dumbfounded. I decided to expand my knowledge of business by obtaining a minor in Entrepreneurship and Management.

The business courses at Johns Hopkins have proven to be my favorite. In the course Introduction to Business, Professor Lawerence Aronhime taught me why companies exist and how they are structured to maximize profits while reducing risk. One of the main projects for Introduction to Business involved creating our own business plans. At first I came up with my business idea, Dress to Impress, Inc.- a business which would provide fashion advice via text message, only to complete a required assignment. However, as I streamlined my idea, I realized that I really enjoyed developing business plans which aim to create profitable businesses. Outside of the classroom, Professor Aronhime pushed me to enhance my plan and develop an idea for a truly viable business. With Professor Aronhime’s help in my freshman year, I placed second in the Johns Hopkins Business Plan Competition with my idea for Dress to Impress, Inc. This year I plan to re-enter the competition with my business plan for SporTrade, Inc. An online enterprise which will create a liquid market for sports betting during game play. Without taking Professor Aronhime’s course, I never would have discovered my interest in creating commercially viable business plans. Furthermore in Introduction to Business, I also began to understand the dynamics of investing within the stock and bond markets.

After completing Introduction to Business, I signed up for many more extracurricular activities with the CLE, including the Marshall Salant Investment team. In high school, I had read some books on Warren Buffett the world’s most successful investor. In college, I learned how Buffett values companies by working on the Johns Hopkins’ the Investment Team. The Investment Team taught me all of the basic tools of finance from Microsoft Excel to the Bloomberg Terminal. After learning these tools and different strategies to determine the intrinsic value of companies, I ravenously searched for undervalued investment opportunities within the stock and bond markets. After two years with the investment team, I now serve as a head analyst and an executive member. We work with a portfolio of over one hundred and sixty thousand dollars. By leveraging my background in Biomedical Engineering, I determine which securities are undervalued in the biotechnology sector. This spring, I also became an executive member of the team. As an executive member, I direct each group to focus on stocks within certain sectors and make the buy and sell orders for our portfolio. This opportunity has not only made me a better investor, but also a better leader.

In addition to my work with the investment team, I have found other ways to pursue and develop my interest in business at Johns Hopkins. I am the production editor and head business writer for the Politik, a school newspaper. For the Politik, I have written many articles about American business, including an opinion piece against the proposed taxes on trading stocks and on bankers’ bonuses and an opinion piece regarding the renewal of the Bush Tax Cuts. By writing for the Politik, I am able to keep abreast of the latest developments in business and finance. I also work as a Course Assistant in Business Law I and II for the Center for Leadership Education. This position has allowed me to understand the effects of laws and regulations on business. By understanding complex concepts like shareholder lawsuits, I am better able to understand the dynamics mergers and acquisitions. Thus, my work as a Course Assistant has helped me to become a better investor and will allow me to become a better entrepreneur.

I am on track to complete my bachelor’s of science degree at Johns Hopkins in three years, and hope to obtain my master’s in biomedical engineering in my fourth year. Though my accelerated schedule is rigorous, I am happy that I became so involved with the CLE during my tenor at Johns Hopkins. In fact, my blossoming interest in business has even helped me with my lab research. As a lab researcher in the biomaterials laboratory, I have been entrusted with creating a provisional patent to protect our innovative strategy for enhancing gene therapy. Without my experience with the CLE, I would have never been offered this incredible opportunity. Thus, although I came to Johns Hopkins University to purely pursue my interest in medicine, my experiences within the CLE have entirely changed my career objectives.

After completing my master’s in biomedical engineering, I plan to attend business school to obtain a master’s in business administration. By combining my passion for engineering with my interest in business, I can innovate in the field of biomaterials and integrate this new technology into commercially viable products. Through effective engineering and successful marketing, I can ensure that my research enriches the lives of consumers across the globe. In short, after attending the Johns Hopkins University, I will be able to better engineer solutions to the problems of human life and change the world. My goals are certainly lofty, yet my experiences within Johns Hopkins and the Center for Leadership Education will help me in accomplishing my objectives.

Building a Business at JHU


Name: Thomas Smith

Year: Class of 2011

Hometown: Bala Cynwyd, PA

Area of Study: Cognitive Science and Anthropology


During my Freshman year at JHU, I was watching television with some friends (including my future wife, Amy) on the second floor of Wolman East when two guys from the floor (Robert and Brendan) walked in, sat down, and confidently announced  to the assembled crowd “We want to make some money.” They were interested in starting a business. So was I.

After getting to know each other, we talked about possibilities. My mother, a librarian, had been in the book business for years, so I knew there was money to be made there. I also knew that it was a business which could benefit from automation; many of the tasks most sellers did by hand could be done far more efficiency using software. Robert, Brendan and I all liked to code, so creating a suite of tools for online booksellers seemed like a good place to start.

Our first attempt at a piece of software was a gargantuan, tangled mess of Perl subroutines and Linux system calls, mostly fueled by Mountain Dew and programmed at 3am. Robert and Brendan created a business plan for our product with help from their Technical Communications professor Pam Sheff, and we entered it into the Center for Leadership Education’s Business Plan Competition. We made it to the semifinals. At the time, the competition felt a bit like our software; growing fast, but still not where it could be.

As time passed, our software continued to mature, and we brought in a fourth partner (Jon, a JHU alum) and identified a solid target market: textbook buybacks. As students, we knew that our peers were often unsatisfied with the prices they received for their books, so we used our data and code to create a system which could offer better prices on textbooks. Hopkins Buybacks, a student-run textbook buyback service, was born.

Over our time at Hopkins, we built our business into a small startup which began to make us a bit of money. While we were still interested in books, we had always considered ourselves a data-driven company. Optimizing market data allowed us to offer better book prices, but our real interest was in the data itself.

While considering novel ways to gather and process data, we realized that there was a market for a cheap, extensible wireless sensing platform which could measure the environment and automatically send information to a human if an interesting trend appeared. In about a month, we had created a basic prototype of an easily-customized wireless sensor, and had spun off our second business, Magpie Sensing.

At this point, we weren’t sure what to do next, so we reconnected with Pam Sheff and approached fellow CLE professor Lawrence Aronhime about our product. Through the Center’s Entrepreneurship Practicum, I was able to spend the next semester developing our technology, alongside my coursework. We decided to target the cold-chain shipment market; when companies ship pharmaceuticals and other sensitive products, they need to make sure those products are kept at very specific temperatures, and our sensor could help them do that.

Pam and Larry taught me all the details of creating a business plan, planning a product, and presenting an idea to investors, and at the end of the Spring 2011 semester, we entered the JHU Business Plan Competition for a second time. By now, the competition had grown as much as our company; there were multiple categories, appealing cash prizes, an all-star set of thirteen judges, and a reception with multiple speakers. After a brief presentation and a grueling question and answer session, Magpie Sensing took home first place in the General Business category.

Since the competition, the exposure we’ve received, as well as the personalized mentoring CLE continues to provide, has been instrumental in helping us plan the future of both our businesses. CLE has connected us with everyone from fellow student entrepreneurs to tech commercialization experts and local business incubators.

We have enjoyed tremendous support within the university community, too, from groups as diverse as the Center for Social Concern (JHU’s community service center), the Office of Sustainability and the Whiting School of Engineering. We are continuing to develop our core technology for Magpie Sensing (with a goal of seeking investment in about a year), and Hopkins Buybacks remains profitable for us and our student clients alike.

Johns Hopkins is known as a science school, and it deserves that reputation. The sciences here are done better than anywhere else. Johns Hopkins, however, also provides a certain culture and spirit which is incredibly valuable in any field. It’s the kind of place which motivates you to contract with a factory in Wuhan Dong Hui (even if you can’t accurately pronounce it or locate it on a map), teach yourself SMD soldering, and work countless nights and weekends to hack out a manufacturable product in three and a half months.

This spirit, combined with resources like the ones we found at CLE and in the broader Hopkins and Baltimore communities, make this a great place for the budding entrepreneur, not just the budding physician or scientist.

Want to talk more about it? Email us at

A Series of Fortunate Events: How I Got the Job


Name: Beth Simmonds

Year: Class of 2011

Hometown: Arlington, VA

Area of Study: Sociology, minors in Museums & Society and Classics


Over the course of my four years at Hopkins, I have had some tremendous opportunities.  Perhaps one of my most pivotal decisions has been to pursue a minor in JHU’s Program in Museums and Society.  This multidisciplinary department is, in my opinion, one of the gems of the Krieger School of Arts & Sciences because it provides innovative courses with incredible opportunities for undergraduates.  Many of my classes took advantage of the city’s amazing museum scene, with regular trips to

The Atrium of the Smithsonian National Postal Museum in Washington, DC. Photo courtesy of National Postal Museum flickr account:

the Baltimore Museum of Art, JHU Evergreen Museum & Library, and Walters Art Museum, to name just a few.  The faculty encourages students to pursue internships within the museum field.  After a positive internship experience at the Baltimore Museum of Art before junior year, I decided that I wanted to reach for the stars (or should I say sunburst?) and apply for a position with the Smithsonian Institution for the summer of 2010.

It was about a year ago when I received a phone call from Katie, my future supervisor: after a tedious online application process and a telephone interview, I was offered an internship within the Office of External Affairs at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum.  I was thrilled and happy to accept.  The internship was unpaid, which meant that I’d spend my evenings serving tables at a restaurant in my hometown, Arlington, VA (a DC suburb).  Yet I knew that the position would pay off in other ways.  Still, I never could have imagined that my internship at the Smithsonian would translate to a job upon graduating from college.

NPM’s Stampede with Smithsonian Undersecretary Kurin, Smithsonian Secretary Clough, Postmaster General Potter, Deputy PMG Donahoe, and NPM Director Allen Kane. I really wish that I could’ve worn a simple pencil skirt and blouse for meeting such important people!

The National Postal Museum is one of the smaller units of the Smithsonian Institutions, which is comprised of 19 museums and galleries, plus the National Zoo.  The intimate setting was perfect for me because I had the opportunity to meet almost all of the staff members over the course of the summer.  I was one of eight interns, and we were spread across the museum’s departments, from public programming to preservation, and postal history to web team.  We bonded over the course of the three months, from attending the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival to dressing up and running around DC as a “Stampede,” where we were dressed in suits completely covered in stamps (but that’s a whole other story… oh boy.)  As the External Affairs intern, I had the opportunity to help plan a black-tie gala, support a fundraising strategy for opening a new gallery within the Museum, and speak directly with members about their favorite aspects of NPM.  By the end of the summer, I had picked up an enormous skill set, and (bonus!) I was able to pronounce “philately” without hesitation.

Exterior of the National Postal Museum. Photo courtesy of National Postal Museum flickr account:

My academic interests in the museum field have largely been cultivated through my coursework in the museums & society minor, but surprisingly, involvement in JHU Greek Life has played a tremendous role in shaping my career goals.  As the past President and former Recruitment Chair of Kappa Kappa Gamma, I learned invaluable organizational and communication skills for managing an organization comprised of 120+ members.  It was striking to me how similar Kappa’s weekly officer meetings resembled an all-staff meeting in the non-profit world.  From managing a large budget to collaborating with diverse personalities, I am still struck by how much Kappa has benefitted me as I prepare for my professional career.

One particularly unique experience as a Kappa was during the same summer that I was interning at the Postal Museum.  I represented my chapter at the KKG 68th Biennial National Convention in Phoenix, AZ, and it was there that I met Kylie Towers, the archivist/curator for Kappa’s two museums, and Edy Mayo, Curator Emeritus at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.  Turns out, Kylie had also interned at the National Postal Museum!  I couldn’t believe such serendipity, and meeting these two women—fellow Kappas—was a highlight of my trip.

Me (right), with Kylie Towers (Left), Kappa Kappa Gamma’s archivist and curator. Edy Mayo (Center) is Curator Emeritus at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

Now… fast forward to November, a time marked for many seniors as “OMG WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE.”  I was sitting in Gilman Atrium with a few friends when I received a phone call from the Director of Development at the Postal Museum; she asked if I might be interested in coming on board to manage the Museum’s membership program on a part-time basis while I finish up school.  Keeping in mind that I still needed to complete a full load of course credits during my last semester at Hopkins, I was able to shuffle my spring classes so that I could have Mondays and Fridays free to work in DC.  With the Postal Museum located right next to Union Station, the 45 minute MARC train makes for a manageable commute.  After I graduate in May, I will be able to commit to a full-time position at the Museum.

So far, the experience as part-time professional, full-time student (with full-time Senioritis) has been a balancing act, to say the least.  I have loved life since stepping onto Homewood campus in 2007, and I will sorely miss the friends and unforgettable experiences that I have had here.  Nevertheless, the anticipation of working for an institution for which I care strongly about has me enthusiastic for what lies ahead.  I’m living life to the fullest one day at a time, but I gotta be honest… I can’t wait for what happens next.

Leaving the Nest Early


Name: Keith Spangler

Year: Class of 2012

Hometown: Ocean City, MD

Area of Study: Global Environmental Change and Sustainability


AP ® exams are a great thing. No, not because they teach you profound things like that “Chicago is (B) a city,” or because they can make you adept at performing calculus without a calculator (for all those real-life scenarios where you need to differentiate something in the middle of the desert without your trusty TI-89); no, AP ® exams are great for another reason: they can save you $50,000 and a lot of time otherwise spent in redundant introductory courses.

I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that I’m glad I studied for those exams because, as of last week, I am officially graduating a full year early. Last semester, my advisor and I happened to realize that I would have enough credits to graduate this spring. Of course, this caught me off guard – what would I do next year? I had heard rumors of this thing called the “real world” but, until very recently, I was still under the impression that it was a fun montage of drama like in the MTV show. As it turns out, there are careers involved, as well as bills and health insurance and taxes. I panicked a little.

“I think I need time to figure out what I want to do with my life,” I argued to my advisor. But, as she pointed out, “Fifty grand is an expensive way to figure out your life.” Touché.

And so, without warning, I hurled myself into the possibility of entering the real world. It was not an easy thing to do, especially with such little warning – but Hopkins made it possible for me. I started with a trip to the Career Center (, a logical place to begin. I spoke with one of the counselors there and could not have been more pleased. She got me in contact with several employers and gave me a ton of ideas I had never even considered. I left Garland Hall full of fliers, ideas, and free gourmet coffee.

Applications for everything imaginable came next – but with that came the dreaded letter of recommendation. Most employers and graduate programs want to see at least two of these devilish things; but from whom do you get them and how? Like many undergrads, I had put off this task until the last possible minute. But, as it turns out, it’s not as difficult as it sounds. Being a Global Environmental Change and Sustainability major, I spend a great deal of time in the Earth & Planetary Sciences department and have really gotten the chance to get to know my professors. It’s actually pretty remarkable how I was able to form such great relationships with my instructors – it’s definitely one of the greater appeals of Hopkins; I feel that all my teachers truly want to see me succeed and really care about what they teach. All this is to say that getting reference letters is not nearly as difficult as one may think – Hopkins professors are more than happy to help out.

The Office of Academic Advising was the next stop in my journey ( Despite not having done the applicable paper work my “junior” year (which was actually my sophomore year), the advisors made it simple for me to catch up and get my name on the graduation list. Another great thing about Hopkins is that the system works with you rather than against you – something I certainly can’t say about other schools and businesses.

The obvious question now is: “What’s next?” The clearances have been signed, the credits have been earned, the applications have been postmarked. Next year is an enigma of possibility – whether I will be in London studying environmental change or diving into policy issues with EPA, I couldn’t say. I would be lying if I said I had it all planned out; but as far as I’m concerned, uncertainty is what life is all about. For the first time, I can say with sincerity that I have no idea what comes next – and I couldn’t be more excited.

In DC with Hopkins success story Ira Remsen. Who knows what the future holds?

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IBM at Johns Hopkins


Name: Brian Shell

Year: Class of 2012

Hometown: Aberdeen, NJ

Major: Environmental Engineering

In this guest blog entry, I’m writing to talk about a really incredible opportunity that I was fortunate enough to be a part of last week.

I serve as an Alumni Student Ambassador here at Johns Hopkins – a role I picked up last year that allows me to help the Office of Alumni Relations with events and to meet some great Hopkins alumni in the process. Additionally, as a member of the Student Admissions Advisory Board, I’m heavily involved with all that you see here on Hopkins Interactive – from our message boards to blogs to our annual Insider’s Guide to Johns Hopkins.

The event was the IBM Centennial Lecture – the first installation in a nation-wide lecture tour commemorating IBM’s history and focusing on its development of leaders. I guess this was probably my first surprise – while I knew that IBM was a long-standing player in the technology industry, I don’t think I ever made the connection that they were turning 100 years old this year. The second surprising fact I learned was that the speaker, Sam Palmisano, President, CEO, and Chairman of IBM, was a Hopkins graduate. If you’re at all like me, you probably thought that Mr. Palmisano studied applied mathematics or one of our engineering disciplines. Another surprise – he was a history major!

So as is common practice, our Ambassador team helped to staff the event and engage with our visitors. I was asked to serve a special role – to work with IBM’s social media team to provide live-tweeting and blog coverage of the event. This came about from my involvement with Hopkins Interactive and all that we do here. I was put in contact with Jenny, an IBMer who works with their social media team. Jenny and I both live-tweeted during the lecture. All of our tweets have the tag #ibm100 and you can see a few of mine in the photo below.

The event itself was really cool – Mr. Palmisano spoke a great deal about what it means to be a leader. He included a few fun anecdotes about his time at Hopkins – including as a member of Blue Jays Football. I also really liked how he developed a message about IBM’s constant innovation through examples of IBM projects that were spun off or became other innovations themselves.

Mr. Palmisano also spoke about the future of IBM and the industry as a whole. One area where IBM is really innovating is using sensors and real-time data analytics to manage big time fields like law enforcement, medicine, and yes – water. As an environmental engineering major, I have to admit I do not immediately think of IBM when I think of water. Everyone knows water and computers don’t mix. But IBM has developed a fascinating software solution to manage water treatment facilities using sensors and analytics – there are more details here.

I have also been given the opportunity to guest blog on IBM’s Building a Smarter Planet blog, which is a tremendous honor. I’m hoping to write about the interface of leadership and IBM’s projects on water management, alongside my own education and development in this field.

This is certainly not something that I ever thought would have been part of my Hopkins experience when I was a prospective student three years ago. I feel incredibly fortunate to have had this opportunity to be involved with the social media initiatives that are taking the ideas from the lecture and sharing them with the world. It really opened my eyes to the way we can use technology in all fields and the way leadership development is so critical to moving forward.

For more information about the lecture, check out the JHU Gazette’s coverage: