Our Stories

WU students gain career experience through interning in San Francisco

Willamette students participated in a wide array of internships and research projects this summer. This is the third of a five-part series highlighting their experiences.

For many Willamette University undergraduates, summer isn’t just a break from classes: it’s a chance to put their coursework into action.

Through summer internships, students say they gain valuable on-the-job experience — whether they design a social media campaign, offer counseling services for HIV-positive youths or provide behind-the-scenes support at a theatre company.

This year, three high-achieving Bearcats chose the San Francisco Bay Area as their internship destination.

Here are their stories.


Karina Fathi ’15 Karina Fathi ’15

  • Major: Theatre, with an acting emphasis
  • Home Town: Saratoga, Calif.
  • Internship site: Palo Alto Players — the San Francisco peninsula’s oldest theatre company.

Ziv Feinberg ’14 Ziv Feinberg ’14

  • Major: Psychology, with a minor in music
  • Home Town: Mercer Island, Wash
  • Internship site: Bay Area Young Positives (BAY Positives) — a community-based nonprofit that serves HIV-positive youths aged 26 and younger.

Amara Fanucci ’14Amara Fanucci ’14

  • Major: Rhetoric and media studies, with a minor in psychology
  • Home Town: Mercer Island, Wash.
  • Internship site: Double Forte — a public relations company in San Francisco’s financial district.

Karina Fathi ’15

Karina Fathi ’15

Karina Fathi '15 worked directly with the box office and executive and artistic directors at Palo Alto Players.

  • Major: Theatre, with an acting emphasis
  • Home Town: Saratoga, Calif.
  • Internship site: Palo Alto Players — the San Francisco peninsula’s oldest theatre company.

Q: What were you hired to do?

As an administrative intern, I gained insight into the workings of a professional theatre company. I took patron phone calls, answered questions about upcoming shows, sold season subscriptions and organized archives of past productions. Although I am primarily an actor, I truly enjoyed this opportunity to understand the administrative side of theatre production.

Q: What was the greatest challenge you faced?

Coming into this job, the greatest challenge was learning how to self motivate. Some days there were many projects going on at once, and there wasn't always someone there to explain what I needed to do. I became really good at finding the work that needed to be done and taking action.

Q: What did you learn?

I’ve gained a better understanding of the workings of a small professional theatre. It takes a big group to make things tick, and now I really understand what kind of dedication, teamwork and effort it takes to make a professional theatre run smoothly.

Q: What was your most interesting experience this summer?

My favorite part of this job was talking with patrons. Many of the season subscribers have been attending the theatre for decades upon decades, and they keep renewing their subscription because they love the magic of escaping to a new world and hearing new stories.

Something I love about theatre is that it is an art form that requires an audience; the audience is what completes the experience. Actors, technicians and designers can put on plays, but bringing a live audience element into the picture is what makes theatre so unique.

Q: How did the experience help you academically and professionally?

I feel so blessed to have had this experience in professional theatre. It introduced me to a number of theatre professionals working in the Bay Area and taught me skills pertinent to creating high-quality work. This internship reminded me that no matter how difficult it gets, the most important thing is to be doing the work you love. As long as you do that, everything else will turn out fine.

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Ziv Feinberg ’14

Ziv Feinberg ’14

Ziv Feinberg '14 worked at Bay Area Young Positives, where he offered emotional support to HIV-positive youths.

  • Major: Psychology, with a minor in music
  • Home Town: Mercer Island, Wash
  • Internship site: Bay Area Young Positives (BAY Positives) — a community-based nonprofit that serves HIV-positive youths aged 26 and younger.

Q: What were you hired to do?

BAY Positives runs a youth-friendly, peer-based center for HIV-positive youths who are homeless and need a safe place to hang out, get food and access the Internet. I was hired to talk with the youths who drop in, offering non-judgmental emotional support. I also conducted psychological research — including designing my own study measures and collecting and analyzing data to better understand HIV-positive youths and support the services offered by BAY Positives.

Q: What was the greatest challenge you faced?

The youths at BAY Positives deal with issues foreign to myself and most Willamette students. Many are homeless or live in shelters, many struggle with drug addictions and many experience stigma and discrimination based on their ethnicity, sexual orientation and HIV status.

Remaining objective and supportive when hearing how some of the youths cope and survive was difficult, but talking and connecting with them helped me better understand their lives and how much we really do have in common.

Q: What did you learn?

I learned a great deal about designing and conducting novel, ethical psychological research, and I learned how to network and collaborate with other organizations and agencies. Youths living with HIV face a multitude of barriers, and there are complex feedback systems between medical care and social support that make it difficult for them to stay in care.

Q: What was your most interesting experience this summer?

Volunteering at San Francisco Pride gave me an in-depth view of the vibrancy of the city and the vast number of LGBTQ allies in San Francisco. Pride 2013 happened the weekend after the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act and California Proposition 8, and the festivities were even bigger in celebration this year.

Another interesting experience was learning about gender norms and relationship agreements among young same-sex couples. Willamette courses have challenged my preconceptions about norms in heterosexual relationships, and my assumptions were challenged even more on the subject of same-sex relationships. 

Q: How did the experience help you academically and professionally?

This internship has helped me tremendously because it provided a well-rounded experience with both clinical and research work. Internships with direct interaction with clinical populations can be difficult for undergraduates to find. BAY Positives also introduced me to the tight-knit and supportive community of organizations working diligently in the field of HIV/AIDS and LGBTQ advocacy in San Francisco.

Lastly, the freedom to design and conduct several research studies over the summer has exceptionally prepared me for my thesis, as well as applying to graduate programs in psychology.

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Amara Fanucci ’14

Amara Fanucci ’14

At Double Forte Amara Fanucci ’14 helped monitor social media and press coverage for two main accounts, CLIF Bar and CamelBak.

  • Major: Rhetoric and media studies, with a minor in psychology
  • Home Town: Mercer Island, Wash.
  • Internship site: Double Forte — a public relations company in San Francisco’s financial district.

Q: What were you hired to do?

My main responsibility was monitoring social media and press coverage. On days when I found a great article or mention, I drafted a report that ultimately got sent on to the client.

In addition, there were a variety of projects that came my way on a daily basis. Some of my favorites were researching registered dietitians for an outreach campaign, doing a competitive analysis of Twitter usage and assisting during a client meeting.

Q: What was the greatest challenge you faced?

The biggest adjustment was getting used to a work environment driven by tight deadlines. At school, I am used to planning out my activities a week in advance and not feeling too much pressure. However, public relations is a very fast environment: you need to stay on top of the media perception of your client and be the first to know if a crisis forms.

At times, projects came up that I needed to complete on the same day, or sometimes within an hour. I ended up loving this aspect of my job because it made for vibrant, exciting workdays.

Q: What did you learn?

Over the course of the summer, I gained the confidence to jump into new projects and learn on my feet. I found that it was more rewarding to learn new skills in this way, and coworkers appreciated my initiative and willingness to help.

One instance of this was writing a partnership offer letter to a celebrity — something I volunteered to do even though I had never done it before. I got a lot of valuable feedback, and I still wouldn’t know how to write an offer letter if I had never tried.

Q: What was your most interesting experience this summer?

Every day is interesting and unique in public relations. During the second half of the summer I was asked to help monitor a potential crisis situation and look out for coverage or mentions of it online. Luckily, a full catastrophe did not occur, but I was glad I could watch the event unfold while staying ahead of the issue. Even the safest clients can be susceptible to a crisis situation, so it is great that I got some exposure to this side of public relations.

Q: How did the experience help you academically and professionally?

At Willamette, I have learned the basics of rhetorical theory and audience analysis, but my internship allowed me to practice these concepts in a very new way. Instead of analyzing speeches, this summer I looked at press releases or tweets while still using the principles my courses taught me.

Additionally, interning at Double Forte opened my eyes to public relations as a possible career. Before, I was not quite sure if it would be the right fit for me, and now I know it is a path I will really enjoy.

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08-09-2013

Other Summer Experiences

Discoveries in the Skies

Dylan Angell ’14 used Willamette's observatory at Zena Forest this summer to conduct research on a rare type of star.

Lending her Voice

By working two communications internships in Colorado this summer, Natalie Pate '15 jump starts her career in human rights advocacy.

Investigating the World

Through the Liberal Arts Research Collaborative, WU students and professors studied art and science in South Africa. Their works are temporarily on display in Salem.

Research with a View

A Willamette grant sent Caroline Brinster ’16 to the Columbia River Gorge to collect data on behalf of a nonprofit.

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