Shining a Light Through a Shadow

The Hopkins Alumni Association Job Shadow Program provides invaluable, hands-on experiences for students. 

For a day this past August, the sounds of summer were quite different for Hopkins seniors Philip DeLise and Sophia Fitzsimonds. The two high school seniors spent the day surrounded by the hum, whirl, and squeaks of a factory in North Branford. They watched as workers wearing goggles and aprons pulled levers and guided pieces of metal through the innards of large machinery. It was an anachronistic scene where the gilded age collided with 21st century technology.
 
Leading DeLise and Fitzsimonds through the factory maze was Ron Delfini ’84, president and co-founder of Engineering Specialties, Inc. (ESI), a
company specializing in metal stamping and automated assembly. An entrepreneur at heart, Delfini is also a co-creator of the Hopkins Alumni Association Job Shadow Program, which is what brought DeLise and Fitzsimonds to the factory that day. During their visit, Delfini showed the two the intricate steps of the metal stamping manufacturing process, from product design to delivery. In one hands-on example, the students worked with a technician to review CAD drawings of a safety bracket mechanism created for a Ford automobile seat belt. Once die blocks of the brackets were machined using the drawings, the students helped provide quality control by utilizing state-of-the-art laser technology to measure the dimensions of the bracket down to the micrometer.
 
“I learned about all of the tiny, but essential, parts that go into making everyday objects,” Fitzsimonds said. “It was interesting to see the design and building processes of simple parts that are actually incredibly useful and taken for granted.” 
 
Fitzsimonds said she requested to shadow Delfini because she has an interest in mechanical engineering. As a high school senior, she recently applied to universities with strong engineering programs, and she hopes to earn a degree in structural or civil engineering.
 
Launched in 2007, the Job Shadow Program matches rising seniors with opportunities to spend a day “at work,” over the summer months, with area alumni involved in various occupations and professions. Since the program’s inception, more than 200 students have participated, successfully shadowing physicians, architects, judges, journalists, investment managers, aerospace engineers, and a host of alumni in other professions. Students have been able to witness the inner workings of the chamber of the Supreme Court, the newsroom at The New York Times, and even in the operating theater of a hospital—just to name a few. This past summer, 19 rising seniors were matched with alumni through the program. 
 
The program provides a unique opportunity for students to gain insight into a field or career that is of interest to them. It is also an opportunity for students to talk with alumni about future training programs and career directions. Participating alumni also enjoy the experience and report that they are always impressed with the intelligence and work ethic of our talented Hopkins students.
 
While a job shadow program did not exist at Hopkins when Delfini was a student in the 1980s, he said his father, Dr. Ron Delfini ’61 HGS, arranged for
his son to shadow several of his friends that owned local businesses, such as Mike Giordano ’61 HGS, who owns a construction company. Delfini also remembers shadowing his father’s friends in the real estate and retail industries.
 
“I found these experiences quite rewarding, especially the entrepreneurship aspect,” he said, “and thinking about those past experiences was the genesis of the Hopkins Job Shadow Program.” 
 
Ron said he’s proud of the program he helped launch because it “affords current students the ability to get out in the work place and spend time with our amazing network of alumni.” Paying it forward, he has hosted several students interested in engineering and entrepreneurship over the years at his manufacturing company in North Branford. “It is so rewarding to see their enthusiasm,” he said.
 
Students and alumni can get more information about the Hopkins Job Shadow Program by contacting Katey Varanelli, Director of Alumni Engagement, at kvaranelli@hopkins.edu. Pairings for Summer 2020 will begin this spring.
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