By, Kyla Guilfoil, Asst. News Editor
Women Inspiring Successful Enterprise (W.I.S.E) is a professional development program at Manhattan College meant to encourage and support female students as they embark upon internships in a variety of fields. This program, held during the summer, was created by Rachel Cirelli, Director of Career Development, who saw a need for women’s empowerment in the workplace. Through this program, W.I.S.E. fellows complete an eight-week paid internship and participate in weekly seminars that cover important topics such as imposter syndrome, salary negotiation, work-life balance and more.
The program is open to all women who are rising juniors and seniors. This year, there were 24 W.I.S.E. fellows who fulfilled internships in their desired fields.
Fellow Caitlin Ficarra, a junior marketing major, worked for 3D Public Relations and Marketing as their summer intern.
Ficarra described that her friend Madison Smith ‘21 inspired her to apply for the W.I.S.E. program. Smith had participated in the program and had interned for the same company. As her mentor in the Public Relations Student Society of America at MC, Smith told Ficarra about the connections to female leaders and the skills in her field that she had gained through W.I.S.E.
“I did a lot of work with creating marketing pitches, press releases, designing social media graphics, and I also ran the Instagram accounts for some of our clients, so that was fun,” Ficarra said. “There were different lifestyle accounts, makeup accounts, there was an account for egg donors and surrogacy. I definitely didn’t anticipate taking on all of these different tasks, but I really did enjoy my internship.”
Ficarra added that the integration of the weekly seminars added an essential layer to her internship experience.
“We addressed a lot of critical issues that I think all women in the workplace face, and we addressed how to overcome those situations,” Ficarra said. “I think that those seminars guided me in a way. It was like I learned real skills in my desired industry and field through the internship, whereas through the seminars, they prepared me for the real world. And the thing about W.I.S.E is that it’s empowering emerging female leaders, and all of the seminars were there to essentially get everyone aware of challenges that aren’t really addressed [in the workplace].”
The conversations presented in these seminars also created the foundation for a strong community of women. Through these shared experiences, many of the participants developed friendships and connections that helped further guide and encourage them. Alixandria James, a junior Public Health major who also participated in the program this summer, described the group dynamic.
“I think it’s really great to have a group of women, because it’s different being in class with guys and being in class with girls,” James said. “We hope that things are really equal for men and women, but it’s not. So, it was also just really great to be a part of a leadership program with just women, because I think the way you go about inspiring women and pushing women might be a little bit different than men. It was great to be around all types of women as well, like women of color, and there were some commuter students, who without this program I don’t think I would have had the opportunity to meet.”
James used these new connections to help guide her through her own internship at New York Presbyterian Hospital. She worked in the hospital’s division of Community and Population Health and their Outreach program, as an Outreach intern. This meant that James spent her summer reaching out to lower income communities and providing healthcare, addressing issues such as healthcare disability.
James located community organizations, whether that be schools, churches, etc., and helped get the word out about community events the hospital was leading, whether that be pop-up vaccine clinics or events to help share more healthcare-related information with the community. Two community centers that James worked at were Harlem’s Children’s Zone and Pediatrics 2000, both of which were used to host such events.
James extended this community outreach through a separate project, as she was also a participant in the Jasper Research Scholars program this summer. As a research scholar she helped with the data analysis of MC’s campus climate survey from last November. Since there were so many submitted comments, one of James’ professors, Rani Roy, Ph.D., asked James to come aboard the project.
James’ explained that this project is not directly related to her studies of Public Health, but is rooted in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion work that is of great importance to her.
“Both are equally important, and honestly both play huge roles in my life and in what I aspire to be in my values as a person,” James said. “Campus climate was all Diversity, Equity and Inclusion related, and I actually had the opportunity to meet with the D&I manager at New York Presbyterian, and I got to share the work that I was doing on campus, and kind of cross-reference that she was doing over at New York Presbyterian. So it was definitely was a lot of work at times, but they’re both areas that I think are very, very important and I’m very thankful that I was able to do both, because while I’m as equally passionate in Public Health and in helping a larger community sense, at the end of the day Manhattan College is my immediate community.”
James’ work shows her dedication to community, which is a key value in the work of the W.I.S.E. participants. Sini Makela, a fifth year student working towards an MBA in Business Analytics, felt the impact of the W.I.S.E. community all the way from Finland.
Makela planned on being in New York for the program, but was unable to make the trip in June due to limitations on her visa. Since Makela’s internship at Gale Partners, a marketing firm, was remote for the summer, she worked from her home in Finland.
Makela is continuing to work for Gale Partners in their performance marketing team, as the company extended her internship an extra month. Her work focuses on data, including testing, weekly and monthly reports to help the team create client recommendations, invoicing, analyzing clients’ spending and budgets to make financial recommendations and visualizing data based on client performance.
“What I really like about [my internship] is that I’ve actually gained a lot of responsibility, so it’s like I’m doing random tasks, they’re actually giving me important things to do, and I felt like I’ve really been able to make an effect and have a role to play,” Makela said.
Makela fulfilled this important role while in a seven-hour time difference from her office, usually working from 3 p.m. till 10 p.m. to line up with New York’s own work- day hours. Still, Makela also managed to stay engaged with the other W.I.S.E. participants. She was one of two fully remote fellows, and would call into the weekly seminars via google meet.
“I feel like I still got the same amount out of it [despite being remote],” Makela said. “Whenever we had small groups, one of the girls would FaceTime me and the other remote girls, and place the phone next to the group so we would be a part of the conversation, so it was nice that they made us included even though we were remote. So I still got to know a lot of the girls, we’ve connected through social media, and stuff so that’s nice.”
Makela also emphasized the importance of the W.I.S.E. program in that it encourages young women to advocate for themselves and follow their ambition. She believes that the leadership skills she has learned from the program will help not only in her career, but also as a captain of Manhattan’s women’s basketball team this year.
“All in all, I think the program does an amazing job connecting young girls with these internships and these companies that you might not otherwise have the opportunity to connect with,” Makela said. “I realized I have the ability to do more than I thought. I was able to build that confidence and I have a clearer picture of what I want to do in the future.”
Maura McCarthy, a junior management and economics major, also felt that W.I.S.E gave her a more developed understanding of her career ambitions. McCarthy scored an internship at the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility after being accepted into the program, and worked in the company’s health equity program and data analysis program. Being a part of these programs helped show McCarthy how important public health was to her, and helped her feel a greater sense of value in her work.
“I think this summer was a great reminder that it’s possible to combine a lot of your interests to find a job that interests you in many different ways, and it doesn’t just have to focus on one main area that you’re majoring in, which I think definitely encouraged me to expand on my horizons,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy was able to take on an important role at her internship site, working on the creation of a health equity tracker for the program, as well as presenting some of her data analysis work to the entire company. On top of this success, McCarthy also was a Jasper Research Scholar this summer.
McCarthy is working with Poonam Arora, Ph.D., in the management department on a project that studies the impact of power on decision making and cooperation in social dilemmas. McCarthy explained that this work is more independently structured, whereas her internship through W.I.S.E. was more traditionally scheduled during work day hours. Like James, McCarthy continues to work on her research and will present it this fall.
Similar to McCarthy, junior Chelsea Fedigan was accepted into the W.I.S.E program as a business student. Fedigan is a Business and Analytics major, and interned as a Research and Evaluation intern at The Fresh Air Fund.
Fedigan was in charge of creating a data library that highlighted key outcomes from positive youth development literature that demonstrated academic, socioeconomic, and socioemotional needs of youth that the Fresh Air Fund’s programs serve. Fedigan then condensed this library into a document of key talking points for the executive, development, communications and program teams to utilize when communicating needs of their services for low-income, disadvantaged NYC youth to all stakeholders. W.I.S.E enabled Fedigan to increase the experience she gained from this work at the Fresh Air Fund.
“Besides gaining internship experience, I was able to learn valuable information in the professional development work- shops during W.I.S.E Wednesday’s,” Fedigan said. “I learned about interview tips, salary negotiation, and gender discrimination in the workplace, among many other topics. Lastly, I loved the community that was developed with everyone in W.I.S.E. I feel like we became closer after participating in our internships and getting to spend so much time together.”
Fedigan underscored the importance of this background support and education for all women entering the workforce.
Saran Camara, a senior Ecoomics and Finance major, also indicated that WISE offered more than a traditional internship.
“I applied for the W.I.S.E Program because it represented a unique opportunity for me to acquire professional experience while providing enrichment sessions that will enable me to become a great leader in the future,” Camara said. “W.I.S.E. includes a great group of women that I got to meet and learn from,[and] the fact that we get matched with a company whose mission aligns with our personal and professional goals [is a pro].”
Camara was an Accounting Assistant at the Fordham Bedford Housing Corporation and was able to use her time there to help low and middle income tenants apply for rental assistance programs.
Juliette Cazzari, junior communications major, was also able to make a difference through her internship.
Cazzari found an internship at Baking Memories for Kids, a non-profit organization that sends children with life threatening or terminal illnesses to Florida for a week so that they can go to Disney World with their families. Cazzari learned about her company’s marketing and public relations technique, and had to develop skills in the field of public relations. Cazzari shared that the structure of the W.I.S.E. program helped her to be more successful in this internship.
To Cazzari, learning about salary negotiation, imposter syndrome and practicing skills for the workplace during WISE seminars enabled her to more confidently perform in her in- ternship when she experienced dif ficulties.
Stephanie Zandel, senior Allied Health major, also found these skills helpful as she took on an internship as a research assistant for the Pediatric Hematology, Oncology and Stem Cell Transportation Department at the New York Medical College affiliated with Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital. Zandel experienced hands-on patient interaction, learning how to explain studies and obtain consent for new patients to join. Zandel worked within medical records and data, while also gaining experience shadowing health care professionals and following rounds. Zandel believes that W.I.S.E. made her experience possible, in a way a traditional internship process might not.
“I think the pairing of the W.I.S.E. program is very well- thought out, because I think Rachel [Cirelli], she really does try to match people to what they think is best suited for them. She doesn’t want to give you something just to give you something,” Zandel said.
She adds that the connections made between Cirelli and the other fellows provided a positive environment, where they shared the experience of interning in their chosen fields.
“W.I.S.E is a really valuable experience because it creates an enriching community of high achieving women, and they empower one another, and it allows us all to develop ourselves professionally, to be better prepared as leaders so I really liked that kind of environment and the preparation it provides for women in the workforce.”