Photo of Dornsife Gateway Students
A Gateway to the Future

Gateway Scholars

Exploring New Horizons

Though Dominic Borrelli, a USC Dornsife junior majoring in environmental studies and minoring in geographic information systems (GIS) and sustainability science, wanted an opportunity to apply his specific classroom knowledge to a real-world environment, there weren’t many options for internships that combined his specific fields.

But through the USC Dornsife Gateway Internship Program, Borrelli found an internship at The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California, where he was tasked with using a GPS receiver to map individual plants. He also created web maps of infrastructure within The Huntington’s Rose Hills Foundation Conservatory for Botanical Science and worked on an experimental project training computers to identify oak trees in satellite images using a technique known as object detection

Though he was initially unsure if he would pursue GIS professionally, Borrelli’s Gateway internship revealed the possibilities within the field. “Because of my internship, I now know that there is so much depth to the GIS industry and that I can work in many different sectors; I don’t have to be pigeon-holed,” he said.

Career Exploration Made Possible

Celebrating its 10th year this summer, the USC Dornsife Gateway Internship Program has provided nearly 400 students with opportunities to explore career options by connecting them with employers for summer internships as well as providing them with professional mentorship and career seminars that advance preparation and job skills.

Selected through a competitive application process open to undergraduates at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Gateway Scholars come from a variety of backgrounds and fields of study.

Junior Valentina Gomez, a psychology and creative writing double major, interned at Wise Readers to Leaders, a nonprofit dedicated to closing the literary achievement gap for low-income youth.

As an aspiring editor, Gomez found that her internship working with students from kindergarten through fifth grade offered insight into how children use books as well as the demands of the professional world.

Speaking about her Gateway experience, Gomez said, “I learned about networking, mentorship, graduate school, different career paths and so many other tools I’ll be taking with me into the professional world.”

Preparing Tomorrow’s Leaders

One of the most beneficial aspects of Gateway is that it offers all its students paid internships, either through employers themselves or through stipends provided by the program. This encourages students to pursue unpaid internships that might otherwise be out of reach, allowing for valuable experience related to their career goals. It also ensures students do not have to make decisions between summer employment and internships. The generosity from program supporters helps fund the student stipends, allowing the program to attract talented students regardless of their means.

USC Dornsife alumni and friends support the Gateway program through more than just financial contributions, with a gift as equally as important: time. Many Gateway mentors are USC alumni who offer their experience and perspective with Gateway Scholars through virtual or in-person meetings, networking seminars and social events.

Gateway Scholars are eager to learn from those who’ve tread the same path. Praising his mentor Eric Chu, Borrelli noted Chu’s “wealth of knowledge about the tech industry, which I’m ultimately trying to enter. He also had great advice about finding balance and looking for the positive side of every situation, which ultimately has shaped the way I approach life.”

Impactful Mentoring Relationships 

Mentors, too, have found the benefits of working with highly motivated, academically successful students. “After one summer of mentoring, I was hooked,” said mentor and alumnus Scott Sternberg, a consultant who has been with the Gateway program since it began a decade ago. “It’s the commitment of the students to the program and the commitment of the staff to creating the best possible experience that has kept me engaged and wanting to participate every summer.”

Kim Vinson, an alumna and academic advisor at USC Dornsife, added that working as a Gateway mentor has helped her “learn how to hone my own communication skills and effectively work with students.”

Throughout its 10 years, the Gateway Internship Program has shepherded hundreds of dedicated USC Dornsife students to the next step. The gifts of time and expertise from volunteers and financial contributions from donors have allowed them to prepare for an uncertain future in an impactful way.

As Gomez said: “My Gateway internship reiterated to me that you can never truly know what to expect in a job. Things can take unexpected turns, and those unexpected turns can lead you to some of the most fulfilling experiences of your life.”


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USC Dornsife Office of Advancement

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Los Angeles, CA 90015

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