New Internship Builds Careers Through ACES Program

Jalen O' Neal-Strawder '19 smiles in front of the Cisco buildingBefore last summer, Ana Chena Davila ’19 had never had a real-world work experience. But after participating in a pilot career-building internship program developed by Saint Mary's and Cisco, she found her groove.

“I got to experience working for the first time, with other employees across a range of ages,” said Davila, an accounting and French major. “The skills I acquired during the summer gave me more confidence in my ability to work in a corporation."

Davila was part of a group of nine students who took part in the launch of the program, called ACES (Accelerated Career Entry for Students). The initiative gives students, particularly those underrepresented in fields such as information technology, the chance to learn about the information technology field and prepare for life after graduation. Over four years, students will be placed in full-time, paid summer internships at a variety of companies, during which they will learn about the firms' organizational structure, network with mentors, and develop a job search plan. Cisco is the first ACES partner.

ACES reflects SMC’s Lasallian mission of student success through practical professional internships, as well as Cisco's commitment to mentoring SMC students, said Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Bethami Dobkin. “This partnership illustrates Cisco's recognition of the insight, creative capital, and intellectual power diverse individuals bring to its industry,” she said.

Computer science major Jalen O'Neal-Strawder ’19 found the program challenged him to think on his feet. “You don't want to have just one skill—you want to be well-rounded, to be able to work a problem through,” he said. “During the internship, I was challenged to adapt: ‘OK, this is the situation, so think it out, and let's do it.’”