The head of the Career Development Office at Grinnell encouraged me to apply for a summer Noyce/Intel grant that would allow me to intern anywhere I wanted, so I spent the summer between sophomore and junior years (1996) at the National Public Telecomputing Network (NPTN) in a suburb of Cleveland. NPTN was the parent organization of the Free-Net systems that allowed millions of people to go online before private Internet service providers were widely available.
Spring break of 1996, my sophomore year at Grinnell, I interned at the DC office of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, better known as ACORN. I had heard of ACORN somehow or other, but most people didn't hear about it until 2009 when there was a manufactured political scandal. This was long before that. Here are some things I learned:
The summer after my freshman year at Grinnell, 1995, my dad got me an internship at the National Institute for Petroleum and Energy Research, commonly called NIPER, in my hometown of Bartlesville, OK. I was helping out the IT staff. Here are some of the things I learned from the experience.
Spring break of my freshman year in 2005, I did a 2-week internship at a little nonprofit in Chicago called the Neighborhood Capital Budget Group, where a recent alum was one of four staff members. NCBG's mission was to get local neighborhood groups a voice in city infrastructure projects, and at the time they were focused on the renovation of the L's Red Line.
When I arrived at Grinnell College in 1994, it was quickly apparent to me what campus job I should apply for. At that time the college discouraged students from bringing their own computers to campus, in favor of communal computer labs. Not only did this help level the playing field between rich and poor students, but it helped keep the campus network relatively free of malware and limited the possible combinations of hardware that needed to be supported. The students who worked in the computer labs, providing tech support to the students, were called the User Consultants or UCs.
Immediately after graduating from high school in 1994, I worked for a summer at Malone Motors, a Cadillac dealer in Bartlesville, as a "gopher," doing odd jobs in the service department. It was an odd choice of job for an honors student bound for a liberal arts college, but it was what I could find with no real work experience and no real expectation that anyone should want to hire me.
In the summer of 1993, I had no luck finding a summer job (partly due to having no idea what I was doing) and instead spent the summer volunteering at a local nursing home. It was a very rewarding experience that helped me to grow in a variety of ways. Here are some of my reflections on what I learned:
Back in 1998, I wrote a parody of the Schoolhouse Rock song about pronouns by Bob Dorough and Kathy Mandary. Since I didn't have access to the original at the time, it's a very loose parody. But my friend Rich Brown liked it and put it up on his Web site, where Jessie found it when she googled my name after we were first introduced online.
In 2004, I sold my possessions and hit the road on my bicycle for a 10 month, 7,000 mile solo bicycle trip, going south for the winter and returning north in the spring. Five years after I completed the trip, I wrote a series of ten essays, each on a subject where my perspective had changed due to the trip. I've revised the essays each five years after that, so they've now been revised twice and are in the form of a Google doc that can be downloaded or printed for easier reading.