Follow me: Exploring public policy and pevelopment

Alumni mentors share their workplace and knowledge with rising seniors

Mentor: Dennis Whittle ’79, Chip Storey ’79, consultants and startup co-founders
Students: Hannah Park, Kahliya Clayton, Gunn Sukhum, Jonny Chen, Angel Guo

Five Exeter students worked together to help close the growing gap between generations and foster meaningful intergenerational connections outside the family. At Normal>Next, co-founders Dennis Whittle ’79 and Chip Storey ’79 engaged the students, all working virtually, to create a learning module that would help older adults meet and connect with young people through artificial intelligence.

The internship began with a one-week onboarding process (the same process the company uses for its college and graduate school interns) that trained the Exeter students in design thinking principles as well as organizational behavior. Then the group worked collaboratively — without specific guidelines — to develop the one-hour module’s content and present their methodology to company executives, board members and select people outside the company.

“In some ways, the Exeter students had an advantage because of their Harkness training,” Storey says. “It makes them more confident in expressing ideas and helps with the whole process of collaboration.”

They also had to test their ideas with older adults to make sure they were realistic and effective. “A great idea may not work in practice, so you have to try again until it works,” Whittle says.

Hannah Park ’24 and Angel Guo ’24 applied for the Normal>Next internship because they were looking for a collaborative, community-centered experience. “If I could explain my experience in just three words, it would be community, experiential and impact,” Park says. “We were challenged to step out of our comfort zone and expand our way of thinking. All of the skills I learned in the program are essential to the fields I’m interested in pursuing."

If I could explain my experience in just three words, it would be community, experiential and impact"
Hannah Park

Guo, who wanted a real-world experience that enabled her to help others, says, “I discovered the importance of empathy and learned that the process should guide you towards a solution, not the other way around.”

Both were surprised by how much they were able to accomplish during hours long Zoom calls across several time zones over the three-week internship. “Our team was incredibly effective, and we had great chemistry,” Guo says.

Park adds, “It was meaningful to be able to take what we learned and developed over the three weeks, and give it to real people and make a real impact.”

Whittle and Storey hope that the student-created module will be implemented this fall by two national organizations. They’re proud of the way the students represented Exeter. “When you do things like this, it requires you to fail a lot,” Whittle says. “I’m proud we were able to get them to see the thrill of experimentation.

This story was originally published in the Fall 2023 issue of The Exeter Bulletin.

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