Fellowships Help Students Hear the Sounds of Success

By 
Bryan Parys
April 7, 2017
Alicia Caillier M.A. '16
Harshit Jain M.M. '16
After an internship at Harmonix (creators of the mega-hit video game "RockBand"), Alicia Caillier M.A. '16 was offered a full-time position.
Harshit Jain M.M. '16 began an internship at electric car firm Faraday Future as a sound designer, but his role expanded into helping the company build a "sonic identity."

When Alicia Caillier M.A. ’16 began an internship on the product management team at Harmonix in Boston while she was still a graduate student in the Global Entertainment and Music Business program, housed at Berklee’s campus in Valencia, Spain, she didn’t know she was stepping into what would become a full-time job. However, she knew she was somewhere special when she was asked to play video games on the clock.

“When one of my first tasks was to play Rock Band for a few days, I really had to take a step back and appreciate how cool this job really was,” Caillier says of her early days as a Harmonix intern. After a few months on the job, Caillier’s initial impressions continued to blossom and she realized she didn’t want her time there to end. As it turned out, Harmonix felt similarly, and offered her a full-time position as a product manager.

Helping Students Make the Next Move

Caillier first learned of the internship possibility while attending a music business seminar in Valencia. A new fellowship program had been created by the Berklee Institute of Creative Entrepreneurship (BerkleeICE) with the intent to attract donors to fund internships for students like Caillier that would otherwise not be financially feasible. Say, for instance, a great internship comes up in Los Angeles, but you live in Boston. If the internship doesn’t pay enough to cover living expenses, then you have to say no. BerkleeICE wants to change that answer to an emphatic “yes.”

“What’s really important about placing interns in these innovative hubs is that both the students and the employers see just how vital and far-reaching the Berklee perspective can be,” says Panos Panay, founding managing director of BerkleeICE. “The tech industry, for example, puts a premium on people who can think differently, and the students quickly realize just how applicable musical concepts like riffing and improvising translate to the professional world.”

Designing Futures

Sound designer Harshit Jain M.M. ‘16 embodied this ethos during his internship application process while a student in the Music Production, Technology, and Innovation graduate program on the Valencia campus. It paid off and he was brought on as a sound design intern at Faraday Future (FF) in Los Angeles, a company focused on the development of intelligent electric vehicles and products.

“My official title said: ‘sound design intern,’ ” Jain says of his experience. “However, it encompassed various duties running parallel to sound/audio/music production. I started out helping shape user experience stories with a focus on sound inside the car,” but soon he was creating a tone of voice across all of their digital media, and, in his words, “giving the brand a sonic identity.”

Watch a series of Faraday Future videos that feature Jain's sound design work:

From Donation to Relationship

A key component in the fellowship is pairing donors directly with students, so that all parties involved get to see the results of the relationship firsthand. For donor Tania Zouikin, a member of Berklee’s President’s Advisory Council (PAC) and former CEO of Batterymarch Financial Management Inc., it was the relationship piece that drew her to donate to the initiative. “It’s always really motivating as a board member and as a donor to see the direct benefits of your contributions, both work and money,” she says.

Zouikin was recruited to PAC in 2006 and brought with her a long history of student-centered fundraising, having built similar internship funding programs at other institutions. “It’s part of my ethos to involve the students in every aspect of fundraising,” she says.

"Because we believe so much in our students, they actually brand and sell the college’s reputation. They become the front-line ambassadors through their internship experience." —Tania Zouikin

Panay shares this vision, stating that, “Pairing these students with donors does more than allow these funded fellowships to exist on a programmatic level—it gives the students confidence knowing that there’s a specific person out there who believes in them.”

Jain’s experience at Faraday Future speaks directly to Panay’s assertion. “At an extremely fast-paced startup environment, you’ve got to be ready to be thrown into any kind of scenario,” Jain says. “My professional experience [prior to graduate school] combined with the music technology master's program prepared me to excel in such an environment, and I’m very grateful to Berklee for that.”

Growing Further Opportunities

The concept continues to grow, with other funded fellowship opportunities now available, including post-master's degree fellowships, graduate teaching fellowships, and Los Angeles-based opportunities sponsored by deal-maker Paul Wachter. Learn more by checking out Berklee's fellowships.