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From left: Deidre Graham, SIS/COP '15, California Governor Jerry Brown, and Valeria Sanabia, SIS/BUS '15, in Mexico City.

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Summer internships lead to adventures abroad for two Pacific seniors

An internship with the California Chamber of Commerce connects classroom concepts to career possibilities.
Sep 2, 2014

University of the Pacific senior Deidre Graham knew from the first day of the internship with the California Chamber of Commerce that it would be unlike anything she had ever experienced. Within hours of arriving at the CalChambers headquarters in Sacramento, Graham found herself mingling with ambassadors, CEOs, and visiting dignitaries at the chamber's International Trade Forum. The following morning, she joined her boss, University of the Pacific alumna and current Regent Susanne Stirling '75, and her team at the chamber's annual Host Breakfast, which is its biggest event of the year.

It was a heady start to a whirlwind summer.  

"It was a huge lesson in diplomacy," said Graham, who is a double major in mathematical economics in the College of the Pacific and international relations in the School of International Studies. "My education through the School of International Studies taught me how to effectively communicate with people from all walks of life, and this internship gave me the opportunity to put those skills in practice and refine them."  

Graham and fellow Pacific senior Valeria Sanabia were part of a 150-member delegation to Mexico this summer, working with Stirling and members of the California Chamber of Commerce to strengthen California's economic and cultural relationship with its southern neighbor. Graham and Sanabia interned with Stirling's team as the California Chamber of Commerce prepared for a trade mission to Mexico.  

"I am fortunate to have a great team at my office, but was also delighted to have these two multi-talented and Spanish-speaking students assist me," said Stirling, who is vice president of international affairs and head of the International Trade Department for the California Chamber of Commerce. "Both Valeria and Deidre worked extremely hard this summer and I think had quite a positive experience."  

The trade mission served to expand California's focus on its southern neighbor and largest export market, according to Stirling. Highlights of the mission included talks with Mexico's Ministry of Education on the state of higher education, an investment reception with Anthony Wayne, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, meetings with business leaders and civic dignitaries, and a summit on climate change. The summer also included two trips to Mexico City.  

"Given the state's border relationship and long-standing historical, cultural and economic ties, Mexico is a natural partner to further expand two-way trade and investment, and strengthen cooperation on global climate change," Stirling said.  

For Sanabia, a double-major in international business relations at the Eberhardt School of Business and international affairs at the School of International Studies, the internship was the ideal way to gain real-world experience in the fields she is pursuing.  

"This experience definitely gave me the opportunity to polish my interpersonal skills," said Sanabia, who worked with Graham and the rest of Stirling's team to coordinate the logistics for the chamber's delegates and guests, including CEOs, ambassadors and government leaders. "Coming back to Pacific, I know that there's so much to share with my fellow students about what I learned. Experiences like this make what we learn in the classroom so much more tangible, and let us find those connections between our education and our life's work."

"The School of International Studies is working hard to establish more experiential learning opportunities for our students, because we recognize the value of complementing our academic program with experiences that help bridge the gap between university and professional career," said William Herrin, professor of economics and SIS's director. "Thanks to Regent Stirling, the CalChamber opportunity is an important part of this effort. SIS has quite a few students like Deidre and Valeria who are able to use the international, intercultural and language skills they acquire in SIS to help many businesses and organizations like the CalChamber. And, as we all know, global opportunities will continue to grow."   

Sanabia and Graham were involved in every aspect of the project, from research to creating the mission's briefing book to taking an advance trip to Mexico City to prepare for the conference to coordinating the flights and schedules for all the chamber's delegates. They appreciated the interest Stirling and her staff showed in their education and experience.  

"Susanne Stirling and the whole team at the California Chamber of Commerce were huge supporters of our education," Sanabia said. "Regent Stirling genuinely wanted to know about my experience as a Pacific student, and to know how we could make that experience better for all students. To watch her really own the role of university regent really spoke volumes to how invested she is in the success of Pacific students."

Though both Graham and Sanabia have vivid memories from the internship, the one that stuck out for both students was the chance to meet California Gov. Jerry Brown, who attended the trade mission. Sanabia recalled gathering the nerve to present the governor with a copy of the briefing book that her team compiled, and she was surprised by Brown's response.  

"He looked through the book and said, 'I can't accept this,'" Sanabia said. "When I asked him why not, he replied, 'Because it doesn't have your signatures in it!'"  

Signatures were quickly rounded up and the book was given to the governor, who signed a copy for the team. For these Pacific students, it was an ending as unexpected and engaging as the internship itself.  

"The person you are is a reflection and a compilation of your experiences," Sanabia said. "Take on those challenges, and let them change you."  

For Graham, it was a transformative experience that could only have happened in one place.  

"There are so many opportunities and amazing things to do here, but you have to push yourself to get out there and pursue them," Graham said. "I would not have had the opportunities I have had as a student at Pacific if I had attended any other school."