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CalSTRS' summer internship program yields positive returns

Chris Ailman and a group of student interns

Pension Sense blog | October 2, 2023 | Barbara Zumwalt

Some patterns in life are certain: day follows night, autumn follows summer, and CalSTRS summer interns complete their time here enriched by the experience and having positively impacted our organization.

Since Chief Investment Officer Christopher J. Ailman started the summer internship program in 2016, we’ve welcomed up to nine college students per year into the CalSTRS family to learn how the Investments Branch works and investigate investment opportunities.

Ailman introduced the program because it yields many benefits—for the interns and our team. In addition to the interns’ education, one of the program’s goals is to broaden the diversity of our Investments staff. Diversity brings advantages to organizations through increased profitability, enhanced creativity, stronger governance and myriad problem-solving skill sets.

These students come from diverse backgrounds that are underrepresented on Wall Street. In 2022, we promoted the internship program to hundreds of students at colleges, universities and groups such as Girls Who Invest, Seizing Every Opportunity, New American Alliance and National Association of Securities Professionals. We hired nine ethnically and gender-diverse students with varying levels of experience.

Each year, student interns gain 500 hours of practical work experience as well as opportunities to work with a mentor. The students research investing and learn about our net zero initiative.

Ailman is proud of the program’s legacy and enjoys introducing the interns to the Teachers' Retirement Board, which governs CalSTRS, every year. Through their internship, the students can eventually meet the minimum qualifications for an Investment Officer I classification and apply for jobs in state service. Approximately one-third of the students who intern at CalSTRS compete for and attain full-time jobs with us.

We strive to attract diverse professionals who will drive innovation throughout our organization. The student intern program promotes staff development and provides an opportunity for the varied thinking that makes funding your retirement possible.

Nicholas Sweet was a summer intern who enjoyed the challenge of finding an opportunity related to our net zero goal and presenting it to the Investment Branch directors. Sweet researched the company promoting the investment opportunity and helped assess the potential benefits for the Teachers’ Retirement Fund. Through the project, Sweet, now an Investment Officer I with us, learned to seek opportunities and rely on relationships he built during his internship.

The interns learn more than investing. Saphira Tran, a former intern who is now an Investment Officer I with us, said the program changed her life. Ailman asked her to clarify her values and follow them. Tran said his suggestion impacted not only her career but her life.

Tran listed three values she has adopted in life, as well as work: courage, compassion and consciousness. Courage came to the forefront when she was anxiously learning to ski. “I didn’t sit out but dove right in to learn while skiing and falling,” she said. And at work, that courage pays off while tackling challenging new tasks.

Since the inception of the program, Investments has hired 17 interns as full-time employees who work to help secure the financial future of California’s public educators.

For information on how to reach CalSTRS, visit our contact us webpage.