Interning at The Fund

Alaska Permanent Fund's intern program offers good experience to Alaska students

Posted: Thursday, July 18, 2002

Part of the reason Matthew Wood chose to attend the University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau was because he had heard about the Alaska Permanent Fund internship program.

"I knew about the program before I even came up here," said Wood, who is from Oregon. "I had been planning for two years to go for this."

Wood, 23, is an intern this summer in the finance department of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp., a state agency that manages the permanent fund. With communications department intern Melissa Roberts, they are the most recent additions to a program that began in the mid-1980s.

"The program is something to be very proud of; it's really grown" said Robert Storer, APFC's executive director. "We've used it as a source to identify bright people and it's been a great success."

Each year, the APFC receives applications for paid internships to be served at the agency's offices in Juneau and at private firms that manage the investment of the permanent fund's principal. Applicants must be students attending Alaska universities, Alaska residents attending schools outside of the state, or recent graduates in those categories.

"Our main goal is dual," said Joan Cahill, communications specialist at the APFC. "We want to serve Alaskans and we want to promote Alaska universities because we're a state entity."

Cahill said the qualifications are the same for the internal and external intern positions, and applicants must have an overall grade-point average of 2.5 or 3.0 within their majors. A GPA of 3.0 is a B average. Successful applicants earn an hourly wage.

The APFC has almost 30 national and international firms managing the investment of the permanent fund's principal. Those firms invest in stocks, real estate and bonds. The income produced from the investments pays dividends, inflation-proofs the principal and increases the size of the principal.

"We invite just about all of our managers to participate in the program," Cahill said. "This year, 12 firms responded and there were 11 hires. Usually we can count on offering Alaska students anywhere between a dozen and 15 internships a year."

Joe Pelayo, a recent UAS graduate, was hired this summer as an intern with Rogge Global Partners, a fixed-income manager in London.

"I just graduated with a bachelor's degree in business management," Pelayo said. "This is my first time in London and I'm working for a high-caliber company. It's a little overwhelming, but after the first week or so you get adjusted and just try to do your best."

Pelayo said he is using skills he learned in his degree program and is learning about international bonds. For the first 10 days at the company, he constructed an economic barometer graph for Japan, and within a month was studying emerging markets and profiling businesses.

"My career plans are to get involved in international business, and this has been a huge help," Pelayo said. "Finance is crucial to any business, and the skills I'm learning here will help whether I'm on my own or if I go into finance."

Pelayo's internship began June 5 and ends Aug. 30.

"This is a wonderful program," Pelayo said. "A lot more students should look into it. Give it a try, there's nothing to lose."

Communications intern Melissa Roberts, 34, is originally from Asheville, N.C., but moved to Juneau from Miami in 1995. She is a business major at UAS, but says communications has always been her strength.

"My marketing classes are my best classes, so that's what led me here," Roberts said. "This was my goal when I decided to go to Juneau; I wanted to work for the permanent fund."

Cahill said there are two goals for the communications intern. The first is that Roberts gets a thorough introduction to the mission of the communications department.

"Our mission is to provide reliable and timely and accurate communication to the Alaska public about the permanent fund," Cahill said. "How do we go about that? What tools do we use?"

The second goal of the communications internship is that Roberts gets overall exposure to the APFC.

"We want to be sure she can go out and explain to people what this organization's all about, how it's structured, and why we have things organized the way we do," Cahill said.

Roberts has been researching on the Web and off it as the APFC redesigns its Web site and prepares for this year's annual meeting.

"I'm doing a lot of research on other Web sites and there's a plethora of information about how you can design things," Roberts said. "The part I enjoy most is learning so much about the permanent fund and its history and why it exists, which was the impetus for me applying for this job, because I wanted to know more. I wanted to know why and how."

Wood, whom Roberts calls "the number guy," has been working this summer on several projects for the APFC's finance department.

"When the interns come on board we're usually at our fiscal year end," said Chris Phillips, director of finance at APFC. "We're getting ready for our auditors to come and the intern helps us in whatever area we think needs some focus for the audit."

Wood, an accounting major at UAS, is assisting in the APFC's reconciliation process and making sure accrued expenses are correct. He calculates the APFC's daily unaudited position and is helping the corporation integrate a new real estate accounting software package into the daily functions of the department.

"He's helping us out a lot," Phillips said. "He's quite talented, very smart and learns quickly, so it's really fun to work with someone like that."

Phillips said that every year the APFC hires someone from UAS because the accounting program there is strong.

"We're not necessarily targeting UAS because we do look at (all the applicants) seriously," Phillips said. "The top candidate always ends up a UAS grad."

Cahill describes the program as an exchange in which the corporation offers the intern mentorship and an opportunity to learn, and the intern offers value and lasting benefits to the APFC.

"When they leave here, we have something we wouldn't have had if they hadn't been here," Cahill said. "We will often have trustees refer to some valuable list created by an intern that's still being referred to at board meetings two or three years later."

Roberts thinks the APFC should be commended for its internship program because it has interns working with national and international companies.

"It's an amazing opportunity for Alaskan students," Roberts said. "I feel very fortunate to be here."

Wood said the APFC integrates interns into its team and makes them part of the department, always taking time to teach.

"I thought I was going to be copy boy," Wood said. "I have done a little copying, but not much."

For more information about internships, visit APFC's Web site at www.apfc.org.

Emily Wescott can be reached at ewescott@juneauempire.com.



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