CMC Impact Program for recent grads gives a boost amid job uncertainty

An orange and white building sits next to a street with multiple crosswalks.
Members of Claremont McKenna College’s class of 2020 took part in a new program aimed at helping graduating seniors in the job market. (Mabel Lui • The Student Life)

Almost half of the 2020 senior class at Claremont McKenna College has taken part in the CMC Impact Program, an initiative launched to support graduating seniors affected by COVID-19’s impact on the job market.

The post-graduate program provides stipends to support proposed projects from members of the Class of 2020 that “advance their educational and professional development through internship, research or community-based projects,” according to the CMC website

Last spring, an anonymous donor provided CMC with most of the funding to launch the program, which lasts from June 1, 2020, to June 18, 2021.

According to Beth Milev, one of the program administrators, 146 former students, or nearly half of CMC’s usual graduating class size of about 300, have taken part in the program so far. In May, 321 CMC students graduated as part of the Class of 2020.

The program is broken up into four separate three-month phases. All those who graduated or will graduate as part of the Class of 2020 — in May, June, August or December — are eligible for the program, according to the CMC website

Of those who took part in phase one, 57 percent pursued internships, 33 percent performed research and the remaining 10 percent participated in community-based projects, Milev said.

“Phase One of the Program was initially set up to support all students who submitted an application, and subsequent phases had increasingly limited spots available as the Program is working closely with participants to secure permanent plans,” Milev said via email.

For phase two, Milev said 68 former students were selected to receive funding. More than half of all participants in phase one had “confirmed post-graduate plans” by August. 

“We can respond to an unprecedented public health and economic crisis by putting you in a strong position to have real impact and achieve long-term success,” CMC President Hiram Chodosh said of the program in an email to the Class of 2020. “We can make an investment in each of you today, fully confident that you will make similar investments in those who follow you tomorrow.”

Lisa Hao CM ’20 participated in the first phase as an unpaid intern for Pear Therapeutics, a biotechnology company, during the summer. Hao pointed to “freeing up opportunities to pursue career interests” as the main benefit of the program. 

“I’ve always aspired to be in the telehealth space and specifically looking at how mental health and technology can work together to make mental health resources and treatments more accessible and more affordable,” Hao said.

Hao double majored in computer science and economics and recently became a software engineer at Apple, a job she had lined up before graduating from CMC. 

Phase one participants were also required to complete a minimum of 80 hours of asynchronous seminar coursework, according to Milev. Two seminars were part of a core curriculum, while students selected six additional elective seminars.

Some former students found the seminar requirement to be time-consuming.

“I feel like that was a little difficult at times, because you’re trying to both manage your internship and you just graduated college, so the desire to want to do more school is lacking,” Hao said.

Each participant receives a $5,000 stipend for each phase, and participants demonstrating greater financial need may be eligible for up to $10,000 per phase to cover housing and living expenses, according to the email from Chodosh.

For Lery Hiciano CM ’20, the program has enabled him to think about his long-term career path rather than finances.

“The Impact Program, more than anything else, allowed me to take a chance on an opportunity that I otherwise would not have been able to,” Hiciano said. “I have been able to prioritize my educational interests and professional development instead of my next paycheck.”

Currently, there are no comparable post-graduation programs at the other Claremont Colleges.

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