Our administrators, staff, and faculty members are doctors, professors, filmmakers, lawyers, artists, businessmen and women, writers, editors, and educators. And every summer, they transform each of our campuses into some of the richest and most diverse environments in existence.
Once you arrive on campus, you’ll see — working here will be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.
“I would not be a successful attorney if not for my experiences working at EXPLO for six summers,” says Julie Rusczek, a lawyer with Drinker, Biddle & Reath, a firm in Milwaukee, Wisc. “EXPLO is where I learned to be an adult and a professional.”
Rusczek started at EXPLO in 1996, after her freshman year at Williams College. An English and biology double major, she worked at EXPLO every summer while she was in college, as well as in the summer after her first year of law school at the University of Michigan.
“I have never worked in another environment like EXPLO,” she says. “It was the experience of a lifetime. There aren’t many organizations out there like this, where you’re surrounded by such talented, motivated, friendly, hard-working, fabulous people, all working together to achieve great things.”
You probably couldn’t dream up a more impressive resume than Millicent Odunze’s, even if you tried. Student body president in high school. Degrees from Harvard, Duke, and Chapel Hill. Missionary trips to Ethiopia. And today, she is a plastic surgeon in Los Angeles.
And yet amongst all of these experiences, Odonze says that nothing else was quite like working at EXPLO for four summers.
“I have never in my life been surrounded by such dynamic, open-minded people with an ideal to change the world,” she says.
From the age of seven, Odunze says she has known that she wanted to be a doctor, but being a faculty member at EXPLO forever altered her sense of the ideal place to work and the kind of people she wanted to work with.
“Since EXPLO, I’ve always wanted to work in environments that will not only challenge me, but that are filled with people who are inspiring, who are motivated and who will change the world,” she says. “I would not trade my experience of those four summers for anything.”
Claire Avitable thought she might like to work with high school-aged students in her professional career. Then she taught at EXPLO and had her suspicion confirmed.
“I had a hunch about this, but after working at EXPLO, I knew that I was meant to work with teenagers for the rest of my life,” Avitable says.
Today, Avitable is the Director of Performing Arts for the Sabes Jewish Community Center in Minneapolis, MN, as well as the founder of the city’s 20% Theater Company. A Theater major while at Smith College, Avitable says working at EXPLO was “a dream job come true” and that her experience over four summers at the Program proved to be a turning point in her career path.
“I don’t think I would have known I would love teaching theater so much had I not worked at EXPLO first,” she says. “It confirmed what I’m supposed to do with my life, and that working with youth is, indeed, a passion of mine. EXPLO was, to this day, one of the best jobs I’ve ever had, and I miss it dearly.”
Not everyone comes to EXPLO knowing where they will end up afterward.
Wenmei Hill started at EXPLO a month after graduating from MIT’s School of Architecture, and for two of the next three summers, she returned to EXPLO while pursuing a master’s degree at the University of Washington. All the while, her long-term career plans were in flux.
“After five years [of working as an architect], I decided that I wanted to work in a field that was more technical and fast-paced,” she says. Today, Hill is a Business IT consultant based in Seattle, Wash., where she has worked with clients such as Accenture and Starbucks.
“Working at EXPLO helped me learn how to inspire and motivate people,” Hill says. “I learned how to manage, how to earn respect, and how to communicate, all of which has served me well in my professional career. The environment was so supportive and creative — for both staff and students — that it helped me to see how great people can be when given the opportunity to explore and shine.”
EXPLO is great practice for working hard. It’s also a great place to practice loving the work you do.
“If you want to work hard and love what you do, this is the place to be,” says Avi Schwab, a webmaster for the University of Chicago. While at EXPLO from 2001 to 2003, Schwab served as the webmaster/photojournalist for the EXPLO summer website (now blog).
“First off, I learned a huge amount about photography, composition, and web development, almost all of which I still use in regular practice today,” Schwab says. “On top of that, I think the most important experience I gained was that of having to manage so many different tasks at once. The six non-stop weeks force you to find a good groove quickly and roll with it — a skill that translates perfectly to careers outside.”
“EXPLO was incredibly inspiring,” Hebert says. “I felt so much support from the students and fellow faculty members that I was able to be successful as a teacher. EXPLO definitely affirmed my belief that I wanted to become an educator.”
A graduate of the University of Mississippi’s master’s teaching program, Hebert says that encouragement and teamwork are things he took from EXPLO and tries to instill as a teacher and cross country coach at Bedford (Mass.) High School.
“I employ the teaching and coaching strategy ‘Work hard, be positive’,” says Hebert. “I believe the same motto could describe my experiences at EXPLO. EXPLO’s zero tolerance on bullying policy meant a lot to me professionally, and is something I implement in every class I teach and team I coach to this day.”
What does one take away from a summer working at EXPLO? Ask Jeffrey Fine — former EXPLO faculty member and current advertising consultant — and you’ll get a list of skills, experiences, and close friendships.
Fine, a Dartmouth College math major with a master’s in engineering from Northwestern University, worked at EXPLO for six summers, at a variety of positions. In 1996, he started as a Program Assistant.
The next summer he became an Instructor — “my first time teaching… it was an invaluable experience.” Three summers later, Fine became the program’s Trips Coordinator. “I was managing multiple projects,” he says, “juggling priorities, dealing with outside contacts, realizing I couldn’t please everyone… not that different from what I do as a consultant actually.”
Today, Fine works at Ogilvy & Mather, one of the world’s largest advertising agencies. “To say I matured at EXPLO would be an understatement,” Fine says. “I learned a great deal during those summers and made some amazing friends. It was hard, challenging, exhausting… but a lot of fun, too.”
It’s the people that make EXPLO special. Your peers will inspire your work and make you laugh. Chances are — according to Dr. Jennifer Light, Professor of Communication Studies, History, and Sociology and a Faculty Associate at the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University’s world-renowned School of Communication — they’ll also be your friends for years to come. “The people at EXPLO are wonderful. I count four fellow staff members among my closest friends in life now, almost 20 years later.”
During her summer breaks from Harvard, Light worked at EXPLO, falling in love with the autonomy given to EXPLO instructors and the sheer volume of interests represented. “It was rather freeing at a time when I and many other staff were thinking about our own career choices ahead,” Light says. “Everyone was smart, which was nice, but even better they were all interesting people.”
Light went on to earn her master’s degree at the University of Cambridge in England and her doctorate in the History of Science at Harvard. And for the past 12 years, she’s been teaching at Northwestern. “[EXPLO] got me off to a good start trying to build classroom environments that are not only places for learning but also respectful of students,” Light says, “and seek always to inject a bit of fun and humor into the lesson plan.”
It had been seven years since she had been at EXPLO, but when Cara Yoder was interviewing for a position as a college counselor, she says she found herself preparing by channeling her “EXPLO self.”
“I reminded myself to be confident, competent, enthusiastic, and engaging,” says Yoder, a graduate of Williams College and Harvard’s School of Education. “It was the way I felt when working at EXPLO.”
The interview went well, Yoder got the job, and now, she says, “I love my job!” Just the way she did at EXPLO.
“EXPLO was probably the most inspiring place to work,” Yoder recalls. “Surrounded by such bright, creative, energetic, caring people, how can you not become your best? I felt empowered as an employee, my suggestions were well-received, and everyone aimed to do their best for the kids. Plus it was just a ton of fun.”