Each January, about two dozen tech-savvy alumni return to campus to help teach two weeklong boot camps, the intensive training at the core of the Undergraduate Practice Opportunities Program (UPOP). The alumni volunteers work with more than 250 engineering sophomores who are developing business and interpersonal skills they will take to internships next summer and, later, into professional life.
To celebrate UPOP's fifth anniversary and honor its major sponsors, program leaders created the Desh and Jaishree Deshpande UPOP Service Award. Three volunteers, each with more than 1,000 hours of UPOP service, received the first awards Feb. 2. Two alumni, Paul Edelman '78 and Mark Herschberg '95, have volunteered as teaching assistants since the program's founding. Edelman, managing director of Edelman & Associates, an executive search firm serving high-tech industries, has worked in organization development for AT&T and startups. Herschberg, a consultant for New York area startups, has managed engineering departments and worked in fields as diverse as financial modeling and online video space. A third service award went to Susan Luperfoy, an artificial intelligence expert who directed Akamai's data analysis and reporting department. The honorees have participated in boot camps and career development events, hosted summer interns and mentored students.
More than 110 alumni have participated as UPOP volunteers and many more have served as internship sponsors. Volunteer Steve Levy '86, president and CEO of the MacGregor Group, a software company providing trade order management and financial network services, says students can use UPOP to learn about the dynamics of working with teams of people. For him, the ability to communicate is the most essential skill that young professionals can acquire. UPOP uses boardroom strategy sessions and mock interviews to teach effective communication. "You want to have a really clear picture of what the customer needs, what the company's doing and how you're going to fulfill your part," he says.
Another 2007 alumni volunteer, Lee Brettman '69, CEO and director of Dynogen Pharmaceuticals, encourages students to expand their understanding of people different from themselves. He expanded his own intellectual horizons by earning S.B. degrees in biology and Russian literature. His advice to UPOP students: "It's not just what you know, it's how you communicate with people, how you work with people and how you are able to understand where they are coming from."
To learn more about UPOP, visit web.mit.edu/engineering/upop/.