News & Stories
June 24, 2022

Making the most of summer


Dr. Stephen Briggs

Summer break may evoke images of beach days and barbeque evenings, but for an ever-growing number of Berry students, the summer months are an integral and intensive part of their overall educational experience. What are they doing, and how are they doing it?

Senior Sydney Nelson is the fourth Berry student in five years to win a prestigious Goldwater Scholarship, and this summer, she is working full time at the Georgia State University Center for Diagnostics and Therapeutics. There, she is extending her work on the synthesis and biological testing of drug compounds that show promise of destroying cancer-causing proteins. These efforts build on research started with Dr. Mark Turlington, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, in her first semester at Berry and continued over the last two summers.

The Goldwater Scholarship is the nation’s top award for under-graduates in science, engineering and mathematics; only 417 were issued this year. Berry’s other three recent Goldwater Scholars also performed research with Berry faculty, each devoting summer months to immersion experiences. 

Undergraduate research

Seth Jolly (22C) won the Goldwater last year, working on synthetic organic chemistry projects in Turlington’s lab, which led to a published article in the Journal of Organic Chemistry. This fall, he will start his Ph.D. studies at UF Scripps Biomedical Research in Jupiter, Fla., which ranks 6th nationally in chemistry graduate programs.

Another previous winner, Sarah Cooper Patterson (19C), is pursuing her Ph.D. in pharmacology at the University of North Carolina, where she studies curative chemotherapy combinations. She conducted her research at Berry with Associate Professor of Biochemistry Dr. Dominic Qualley.

Sydney Nelson (right) conducts research with faculty mentor Dr. Mark Turlington.


Turlington, a Goldwater Scholar himself, attributes Berry’s recent Goldwater Scholarship successes to pairing accomplished research mentors with strong students as early as possible. But what is the vital ingredient for students?

“Researching full time in the summer is what it takes to achieve significant scientific results, to be competitive for the Goldwater Scholarship,” Turlington stated.

In some cases, students can benefit most from opportunities beyond those available at Berry, and summer is ideal for immersion of this sort. Goldwater Scholar Parker Roberts (20C), a physics and mathematics major, combined his research at Berry with remarkable experiences at major research labs. One summer he was part of a research team at Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, working toward the creation of a sustained nuclear fusion reactor. The next summer he worked at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., helping to test a powerful new hall-effect thruster, a type of plasma rocket that will power future NASA space missions. Parker currently works in the Plasmadynamics and Electric Propulsion Laboratory at the University of Michigan, where he is pursuing a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering.

Study abroad

The intensity of a summer experience pushes students to develop professionally and personally, and these immersion experiences are important in all fields of study. For example, Vanessa Rice is pursuing an ambitious opportunity this summer, made possible by a Critical Language Scholarship for language study in Ankara, Turkey, through the U.S. Department of State.

Vanessa, who plans to become a foreign service officer, is majoring in Berry’s history PLUS justice program – which emphasizes skills useful for the legal profession – and also minoring in German studies. Having spent 12 years growing up in military postings overseas, Vanessa understands the importance of language study for U.S. diplomacy and is eager to explore the cultural connections between Germany and Turkey. 

While incredibly valuable, studying overseas can be a financial challenge for some, impossible for others. Berry alumni, however, have established generous scholarship programs to support student travel, and Dr. Elizabeth Davis, director of international experiences, has helped several current students obtain Gilman Scholarships, again sponsored by the U.S. State Department, which provide substantial support to study or intern abroad.  One of these students, Nathania Cortes (22C), is studying language and culture in Ecuador this summer before returning in the fall to teach English as a second language at Rome High School. 

Professional internships

When it comes to building a foundation of professional experience and relationships, one tried-and-true investment is an intensive internship. But not all internships are created equal. The value depends on the commitment of the intern and the sponsoring site. Berry business students have regularly benefited from well-structured summer programs offered by Georgia Pacific, Aon, CNN and others.

In other instances, Berry students venture into virgin territory. Student Bibhu Chapagain was selected this summer for an internship with Ayco Personal Financial Management Division of Goldman Sachs in Dallas, Texas. As an intrepid international student from Katmandu, Nepal, Bibhu already has made good use of his time at Berry working as a resident assistant and a financial planning analyst in the college’s business and finance office. He notes that the career-development course (BCC 150) also made a difference for him in the application process: “It helped me prepare for my interviews and connect with the right people.”

One of those people was Berry Trustee Buster Wright (73C), a 40-year veteran of the financial services industry. Another was fellow finance major Asa Owens (22C), who challenged Bibhu with these words: “You are your biggest competition; push yourself to be better than you were yesterday.”

Nathania Cortes instructs students at the South Rome Early Learning Center.


Allison Ivey (22C) has an internship with Ernst & Young this summer before beginning her Master of Accountancy program at the University of Tennessee and while starting the process of obtaining her CPA license. These opportunities build on the work Allison did last summer interning as an analyst for Sovereign’s Capital, a private equity company. Dr. Frank Stephenson, Henry Gund professor of economics, helped arrange that internship with Berry Trustee John Coleman (04C), providing Allison opportunities to lead a project analyzing more than 700 funds in search of potential investment opportunities and to engage with CEOs of 14 companies.

In choosing a path directed toward the nonprofit industry, student Caroline Lanier has also used multiple internships to strengthen her professional skills and connections. Last summer, she worked for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Georgia as a development, grants and individual-giving intern. In this role, she learned how to use sophisticated research software, develop meaningful stewardship moments and write grant applications, all while working virtually due to the pandemic. This past year, Caroline worked in Berry’s Center for Personal and Professional Development as the student engagement coordinator. She took the role to heart for herself and this summer will serve as program development intern at the Carter Center in Atlanta.

The value of alumni and friends

Internships at nonprofit organizations can be more challenging because these organizations, by their nature, have limited resources to support paid positions. Generous alumni understand the value of these positions for students and society. The Jack and Karen Holley (74C) Horrell Fund supported Caroline’s work at the Make-A-Wish Foundation, as well as the work of other students at nonprofits near and far. Leanna Ritchie (22C) and Bailey Nelms (22C) both had internships at the Sexual Assault Center of Northwest Georgia, and both have been accepted to master’s programs in clinical mental health counseling. Leslie Gutierrez (22C), who served as investigative intern for the Orleans Public Defender’s Office, will begin a master’s degree in Forensic Mental Health Counseling at Roger Williams University.

Supporting internships financially is a meaningful way that alumni (and parents) help support Berry students, but just as vital are the efforts of those who open doors to opportunity. Recently, Berry Trustee Craig Heyl was able to facilitate two summer internships in the executive offices at Trilith Studios, the premier film and television production facility located south of Atlanta that produces Marvel films among many others. Zoe Robinson (22C) and Sydney Munoz (22C) are both working as interns to the head of production. 

Malik LeBlanc (right) with his work supervisor, Anabel Foucart.


And then there is the amazing work of Dr. Jessica Nyugen (10C), Mohawk Industries university relations manager, who with her colleagues recruited a dozen (12!) interns for this summer, the result of a strategic partnership with Berry’s Career Development Network and the hard work of Mark Kozera (79C, 19G) and Abby Mayne (20C), who help connect Berry students with a wide range of internship opportunities. The Mohawk interns include majors in accounting, marketing/management, politics and chemistry. 

One student taking advantage of this opportunity is Malik LeBlanc, an intern in sales operations. As a Gate of Opportunity student, Malik not only contributes to the Berry community but also is deliberate in preparing for his next opportunities. He has worked on certifications in Salesforce, the leading software for managing customer engagement, and he spent Berry’s 2022 spring break preparing for his summer at Mohawk by working on relevant certifications through LinkedIn Learning. 

Now, that’s how you make the most of your summer … and your spring break.  

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