September 17, 2019

Work with Purpose

During summer, sociology major Brooke Popkin’20 had an internship with a tech company, completed a self-guided academic project, and continued working with the local fire department in a job that gives her a sense of purpose.
  • Brooke Popkin worked as an EMT and firefighter for the South Beloit (Ill.) Fire Department.
    Photo by: Amanda Urish’92

Brooke Popkin’s summer was completely packed. The rising senior and sociology major crafted a summer academic project, while interning at a tech company, and working as an EMT and firefighter for the South Beloit (Ill.) Fire Department.

Protean Software, the tech company based in the U.K., with sites in the United States and Poland. Popkin was a business development intern, cold calling small businesses in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana to gauge interest in the company’s free software.

“A lot of people have been receptive and interested, which is very different from what I expected,” she says.

Popkin considers Bethesda, Md., her hometown, but she lived in England for 11 years and has English citizenship. The idea of visiting her old stomping grounds on the job and seeing her mom’s side of the family attracted her to the internship.

Protean allowed her to travel and work while staying in Beloit. She visited England during spring break and returned for a week in summer.

While grateful for the internship opportunity, Popkin discovered that helping people in the field is what truly gives her purpose. She works on the ambulance and fights fires in South Beloit, Ill. She trained to be a firefighter by taking a five-month class at the Rockton (Ill.) Fire Protection District.

On top of the two jobs, Popkin also did a self-guided summer academic project with Professor of Political Science Phil Chen, her minor advisor. It emerged from a U.S. Parties, Groups & Elections course she took with him last fall. “One of the big things we talked about in that class was how various identities, including gender, affect the performance of candidates,” Chen says. “And Brooke took this angle and ran with it.”

She made her research on sexism in the workplace her own, and that’s what Beloit’s summer projects are all about, says Chen. “At most schools, summer research projects are largely focused around the interests of the professor, and students are recruited to help with those projects. While that happens at Beloit, we also give students opportunities like this to explore their own interests. The faculty are willing to give our time to work with students on these projects and it’s really rewarding to see them succeed.”


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