Permanent fund helps students with internships

Posted: Monday, October 14, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- As she rubbed shoulders with Ivy League interns last summer, University of Alaska Fairbanks business administration student Jane Pitakkoshkorn had a revelation.

''After a while I realized, I'm not any less than them,'' said Pitakkoshkorn, who worked at T. Rowe Price in Baltimore. ''It's all about your hard work.''

The graduate student was one of seven UAF students working at prestigious financial institutions, thanks to the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. In all, 12 Alaska interns spent time in major financial hubs such as New York, Seattle, Chicago and Atlanta.

The internship program began in 1988 with the notion that the fund should benefit Alaska's youth in a different way than a yearly check, said Joan Cahill, intern program manager.

So far 159 Alaska students have spent time with top firms. Roughly 25 percent stayed on permanently with their respective companies, she said.

The fund, about $22.1 billion, is invested according to a board approved formula of 53 percent stocks, 37 percent bonds and 10 percent real estate.

Twenty-seven companies have employed interns, who earn $2,000 to $2,700 monthly.

Pitakkoshkorn spent the summer analyzing risk returns and allocations for pension and mutual funds and will finish her master's degree in business administration this year. She hopes to find a place in the financial world after graduation and the internship will help, she said.

Helen Clavel, a UAF senior majoring in finance, worked at the Atlanta offices of Lend Lease Real Estate Investments, a global property management and construction firm.

''The Alaska Permanent Fund was the biggest and most respected client,'' she said.

Clavel was there on a July day when the company learned it had to sell off Alaska holdings to help pay for dividends. She helped find buyers, and the news of the liquidation spread through the office building.

''It was really sad,'' she said.

Accounting major Amber Smith worked at Clay Finley, Inc. in New York. Her job was to make sure 20 accounts were reconciled daily and at times conduct foreign money exchanges for the Alaska Permanent Fund.

''It was unbelievable,'' she said. ''That's my money.''

Another UAF intern performed lease analysis for Kennedy Associates Real Estate Council in Seattle.

''I loved it,'' said Meghen Lewis, a finance and accounting major. Kennedy Associates employed three UAF alumni who made her feel at home.

Mike Fink was offered a job with UBS Global Management, an investment management company where he interned at the Chicago offices. About the time he arrived, an employee was been fired and Fink had to take on extra duties, he said.

''I saw the reality of the business world and what happens when you don't perform,'' he said.

Cahill said the permanent fund corporation structured the program so interns would be able to work on meaningful projects, not get stuck making copies or coffee.

The internships are open to any Alaska student in good standing who is taking courses relevant to the field of work.

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