Athena Staff and Interns Share Their Experiences
Since it was founded in 1986, Athena Institute has offered paid science and business internships to local college students. Dr. Winnifred Cutler strives to provide a challenging and rewarding experience during each intern's stay at Athena. Past interns have continued on to impressive positions in the business, science, and pharmaceutical marketplace, and many have successfully pursued graduate degrees from major universities.
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A Note From Dr. Cutler:
"One of my founding principles since 1986 at Athena Institute for Women's Wellness remains part of our core mission today; to work to improve the quality of health care for women. One of the services we have fostered is to employ student interns interested in learning the scientific process and potential futures in the medical health fields.
The other group of essential staff members who help support Athena Institute, are active mothers who want to work part time. These women are educated, accomplished mothers wanting to maintain their skills in the work force as they devote years to raising their families. They form an important phase of life as they face the challenge of finding meaningful employment yet still coordinating their home life as a priority. We are excited to be a part of their success.
And we have found a rather ideal synergy between staffing with college students in the summer, and mothers of school-age children during the academic year. The mothers enjoy having the summer off; the college students enjoy finding a good job for the summer. And we still have student interns work around their semester schedules, too. I personally have enjoyed the experience of working with all of the Athena Institute 'alumni' who have commented below..."
Jon Cohen Penn State University Class of 2021, Computer Science major. Athena Institute Summer Intern 2019
This summer, working at Athena Institute was the first time I have ever seen the inner workings of a business. I am currently minoring in Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Penn State and I really learned a lot about the intricate details that come with running a functional business. I saw first hand the importance of thinking through processes and creating them so that you can ensure the work is done correctly and efficiently. In addition, being at Athena helped improve my problem solving skills. At times when working with the Athena Order System you had to be like a detective, searching for any detail to help you make the right decision on what to do with any particular problem that may arise. I also learned a lot about the basics of marketing and protecting the image of a brand. I got exposed to just how difficult it is to make your brand stand out in today’s crowded marketplace.
Furthermore, through taking phone orders I learned how to work with our customers to ensure they had a good understanding of what our products are and how to properly use them. I was able to develop my communication skills so that the customer finished the call satisfied. Working at Athena has also helped strengthen my ability to focus on the task at hand; it is easy to make mistakes if you allow your mind to wander.
However the most important thing I learned while working at Athena Institute is just how great it feels to work with a product makes people happy and improves the quality of their lives. Working here has helped solidify my goal to do good, meaningful work in my life.
Caprice Eisele Athena Institute Summer Intern 2018
From the moment I stepped into the Athena Institute for Women’s Wellness, it was clear to me that this opportunity was going to benefit every aspect of my life and round out every corner of my education. The people (and Sybil – the dog) I would soon get to know and the knowledge I would soon get the chance to acquire was like no other. Throughout the duration of this internship, I have learned more about myself and my career goals, women’s health, and more than I ever thought possible.
The very first lesson I learned at Athena was to double check everything. Double check the math, double check yourself, double check science. Whether I was carrying out the daily procedures that the business side of Athena depends on or reading a scientific journal article on breast cancer, Dr. Cutler has taught me to take the time to read into every word. This skill is so valuable to learn early on as I steadily approach the “real world” post-graduation. For example, working with Dr. Cutler to question the emphasis on mammograms was an incredible opportunity for me, both in the moment and reflecting on it now. It gave me a glimpse into the politics of medicine; I was able to see multiple strong forces collaborating all summer to get their voices heard against socially accepted norms that exist for the benefit of the wallet instead of the benefit of the patient. This summer showed me that I have the potential to contribute to these voices just by being brave enough to question what has been accepted as common knowledge. This is a lesson a textbook-oriented class could never come close to teaching.
As the summer progressed, this first lesson evolved into hundreds and I couldn’t thank the Athena Staff enough. I am leaving this Summer Intern position much more prepared for any challenges that may come my way. Not only have I expanded my academic knowledge, but I have also had the chance to expose myself to how small businesses run and what collaboration in the work force looks like. I feel that I am approaching the rest of my life more knowledgeable, confident, and prepared then I ever could have expected from a summer internship and I couldn’t have more appreciation for this opportunity.
Debbie, Office Administration Feb 2011-Jan 2018
Dear Dr. Cutler and Athena Team,
Thank you for the wonderful opportunity to work at Athena for the past 7 years. It has truly become my "second family" and I will dearly miss everyone. As my family is unfortunately experiencing a severe health crisis, it is with a heavy heart that I must resign from my position as Office Administrator.
I thank you for taking a chance on me. I had not worked (for money, smile), for 17 years prior to you hiring me and I know that was a great risk. The part-time Office Administrator position was perfect for me as a stay-at-home mom re-entering the workforce. The hours fit so nicely with a busy mom of middle school/high school age children. The flexibility to adjust my schedule when necessary to attend to family needs was priceless. No surprise here, as the Athena mission of working to improving the lives of women is truly the cornerstone of everything Athena does.
I greatly appreciate your guidance and leadership as I have learned so much during my years here. You have made me a stronger person and helped me stand up for myself and what I believe in. You have been an inspiration to me and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. The Athena managers have been fantastic in guiding me and I thank you all for creating a work environment that was welcoming, professional, and fun. My co-workers made coming to work a pleasure and they have become close friends. In addition to my daily office duties, my involvement with Dr. Cutler's on-going research on women's health issues as well as the Athena Pre-Med Hospice Volunteer Program was fantastic and so rewarding.
I thank you for your understanding and compassion. I wish you and the entire staff continued success here at Athena and look forward to keeping close ties in the future!
Alexandra, Ursinus class of 2018--Summer 2016
Working at Athena this summer has been one of the most unique learning experiences I have ever had. Athena, as a small business, is a constantly changing and fast-paced environment. This atmosphere forced me to learn to be resourceful and a quick problem solver, and the customer service aspect taught me to be patient while firm. These lessons learned through experience are invaluable, and I will be able to apply them to any career setting. I am so thankful for this experience because it opened my eyes to how a job position can be constantly changing and success comes from working hard and being adaptable
From start to finish, my ability to explain pheromone science to customers, handle customer service concerns, my relationships with my advisor and co-workers, and comfort level in an office setting have all dramatically improved. By the end, I was no longer timid and nervous when addressing customers over the phone or explaining in depth about pheromone science. My level of accountability in this business was what I felt to be more than most interns ever experience – dabbling in marketing, customer service, and order processing. I never imagined to obtain such responsibility, and to feel so relied upon in such a beginner level position.
This summer I was given a first-hand look at all that is required of a small business. Meanwhile, still catering to my interest in public health through learning about Women’s Wellness by creating social media marketing posts based off of Dr. Cutler’s eight books devoted to women’s health. Upon reflection, I feel that the work I have done, has helped contribute to success of a business, and that is a fantastic feeling as only a rising junior in my undergraduate education. I want to thank Dr. Cutler and all employees of Athena for their role in building my internship experience that has better prepared me for a career following graduation.
Karen, University of Pittsburgh class of 2017
As a summer intern with Athena Institute, in 2014, I expected to learn about the company and work toward the expansion of the Pre-Med hospice program, however, what I was not expecting was the deeply rooted lessons that I learned during my time with the institute. The gift of knowledge that I received from learning from both Dr. Cutler’s scientific analytical mind and Thomas Quay ESQ’s, general counsel of Athena Institute, legal mind taught me so much about unique issues I doubt I would have ever been alerted to otherwise.
Before this internship, I saw the field of medicine as an irrefutable force. I now understand that just like everywhere else in life, people can be wrong- even whole Medical associations can be wrong about an approach (such as doctors prescribing hysterectomies to 50% of U.S. women and urging them not to take Hormone Replacement Therapy). I also learned that it is your own job to combat against this and ensure that you are as educated as possible. I really admire Athena Institute’s objective to “improve the quality of health care for women”, because it is a noble cause with no desire to profit from the efforts to achieve this goal. Dr. Cutler’s six books are written with a non-scientific woman in mind as the audience and with the aim of educating and empowering women to take charge of their lives and their health. Athena is fighting a battle on behalf of people everywhere who thought the way I did a very short time ago, that the doctor is always right. I am so thankful for my experiences working with Athena Institute and I am sure that I will bring the lessons I learned this summer with me throughout the rest of my education, and my life.
Emily, Research and Office Administration Intern 2013
The past two summers of college I spent my time at an ordinary summer job working in a sales associate retail position. I was very excited to spend my current summer at the Athena Institute doing a job that was both academic in nature and actually related to my interests, as well as one that would continue to enhance my practical business skills of working with customers, communication, marketing, and sales. This internship at Athena turned out to be eye opening for me in more than one area of my life.
While I have always been interested in research and enjoy reading scientific papers, creating, and analyzing studies; I never saw it as something that would become a passion of mine. I was always sure that I wanted to work directly with people as a therapist and not spend my days pouring over numbers. However, my experience at the Athena Institute has really changed my perspective about research. I realized after spending many hours analyzing data and graphing patterns in Excel that teasing out what the data is really saying is something that can be truly captivating to me. I was fascinated by how the graphing work I was doing was strengthening the effectiveness of the manuscript I was assisting Dr. Cutler with. I am returning to school for my senior year with a new goal to go to graduate school and obtain a Ph.D. in clinical psychology.
I loved that my internship at Athena allowed me to experience the collaborative side of research. I am used to collaboration in other areas of my life. However, I have never been a part of the level of dynamic give and take that it requires to bring research to a level that can be understood and presented to the academic community. Even the smallest suggestion about the layout of a manuscript can make a huge difference. I learned how important it is to have people of varied backgrounds work on a project.
This internship also allowed me to participate in and learn about the running of a business. I was allowed to see more of the inner workings of a company than I was ever able to see at the large company I worked at before. I am so glad I had the opportunity this summer to enhance both my practical skills alongside my scientific ones. It makes me feel as though I will have the skills to thrive in whatever environment I find myself in the future.
My internship at the Athena Institute provided me with skills and experiences that will be valuable on any career path. It is a summer job that I can already tell will have a significant impact on my life. I am so thankful for my time here and the connections I have made with Dr. Cutler and the Athena Institute.
Christine, Research and Office Administration Intern 2012
Upon joining the Athena Institute staff this summer, I knew I had a lot to learn about running a business, but the ways in which I have grown through involvement with scientific research, alongside the operation of the Athena business, far exceeded my expectation of a typical summer internship for college students.
This summer, I was able to be a part of the process of compiling and writing a manuscript submission with Dr. Cutler and multiple other co-authors. My eyes were opened to the value of collaborative work from people of various different backgrounds of study: biology, medicine, statistics, and psychology to name a few. Throughout the process, the importance of shared input, opinions, and critique from many pairs of eyes was evident. I grew in my capability to look analytically at information that was presented, as well as to draw different conclusions from research previously done by others, as a result of my contributions. Encompassed by Dr. Cutler and the co-authors over the course of the manuscript writing process was the desire to expose information and insight for the betterment of women's healthcare. Because of their work and dedication to the subject, I was made aware of many prevalent issues in the treatment and care of women at medical establishments, which have not changed over time. My interest in pursuing a career in healthcare has been reinforced and has left me in serious consideration of pursuing a specialization in women's health.
Apart from the scientific research analysis and manuscript that were completed this summer, there was a lot to be taught about the ins and outs of running a business establishment. I gained first-hand experience in taking orders from customers, learning about proper etiquette and relations, how to handle difficult situations, as well as communicating effectively. As the product is of a scientific nature, my ability to convey scientific information to any customer of differing background and knowledge was put to the test. The ability to cater your explanation to each customer in order to increase their understanding or answer any questions they may ask was a skill that I further developed. As an aspiring future medical professional, I know this aptitude will be necessary when interacting and talking with patients who may not have the same medical background or knowledge and need information put into simpler terms in order to ensure full comprehension.
Overall, my internship at the Athena Institute has provided me with a very engaging learning experience in the fields of biomedical science and business. As a result I have grown in multiple areas through the collaborative research process, ranging from analysis of scientific research to actually piecing together a written manuscript. The business skills I have learned, as well as the growth I have noticed in myself concerning customer relations are invaluable assets that will one day be utilized further in my profession in the medical field. I would recommend this internship experience to any detail-oriented, conscientious student looking to pursue a career in the field of science or medicine, with the possibility of taking ownership of a practice or business one day.
Stephanie, Research and Office Administration Intern 2010
I wanted to say thank you so much for the opportunity of working for you this summer. I really enjoyed the time I have spent. This job was definitely something very different and more interesting than anything I have ever experienced. I loved telling anyone who asked me about my job this summer because I have learned so much and was able to share my experience with my friends and family. I have also grown as a person and have become more confident in communicating with other people and I thank you for that. I definitely will not be afraid to answer the telephone anymore (smile). I look forward to coming back to help out this winter and hope to keep in touch with you throughout the years.
Breah, Office Administrator and Research Assistant, 2009
During the spring semester of my senior year at Ursinus College, I worked at Athena Institute with Dr. Cutler on a variety of projects and spoke with customers of the 10X and 10:13 Pheromones. Not only did I learn more about pheromones and the unique stories customers shared about their experiences with the product, but I also had the opportunity to explore some research in Breast Cancer statistics broadcasted in the media. As a student at Ursinus, I double majored in Biology and Spanish, and it was interesting to assist Dr. Cutler’s pursuit of the truth in numbers, specifically whether the statistics announcing the percentage of women that will likely develop breast cancer were accurate representations of scientific research. As a first-year student in graduate school now, it is remarkable how important correct statistics are in every disciplinary field of science. As I work toward earning a Master of Public Health, I am required to take a course in Biostatistics, and a great deal of what I learned at Athena Institute applies to the course. I was also able to witness the end stages of the editing process of Dr. Cutler’s most recently published book, Hormones and your Health: The Smart Woman’s Guide to Hormonal and Alternative Therapies for Menopause.
I am interested in attending medical school, and Dr. Cutler was a great mentor during my time at Athena and continues to be both a friend and colleague. Dr. Cutler is an advocate of self-education, and I believe this is one of the best ways to improve our health care system for the future. My interests in preventative medicine and self-education lead me to pursue my Masters in Public Health, which I will complete after two years as a full-time student at the University of Pennsylvania. I look forward to working with a group of diverse students and professors from the schools of medicine, law, and nursing at the University of Pennsylvania. I know that my training at Athena Institute will continue to help me think creatively and confidently when applying my knowledge to the sciences throughout my career. Dr. Cutler is hard-working and innovative, and anyone willing to challenge his or her abilities can learn a great deal from working at Athena Institute.
Maggie, Research and Manuscript Assistant, 2007
As an English major I am intrigued by the use of language to express both poetic ideas and pertinent information. Similarly as a writer I enjoy the pursuit of research and detailed information that yields to the collaborative process combining research with personal insight. Working as a manuscript assistant for Dr. Cutler has provided me with an opportunity to view the development process that precedes publication. In this position I was challenged to work efficiently and effectively to edit a technical work and found the experience to be both intellectually stimulating and enjoyable. Overall this unique internship provided me with a work experience not commonly available to students on a temporary basis and enabled me to spend the summer working while continuing to learn and develop my own skills.
Thank you again for this valuable internship experience!
Leigh, Research and Manuscript Assistant, Summer 2006
Spending my summer as a manuscript assistant to Dr. Cutler was an ideal position for me. It allowed me to combine both of my undergraduate majors (English and biopsychology) as well as learn a bit about what I'd be studying in graduate school (law). While working on the second edition of her book on hysterectomy, Dr. Cutler showed me the importance of continued revision, the necessity for intelligent collaboration, and the difficulties and rewards of simultaneously being a writer and a scientist. With the hands-on work I was given, I felt that my contributions were worthwhile and that ultimately, I was a part of something that would be valuable to women at a time when they need thoughtful guidance most.
Suzie, Office Administrator/Intern, Summer 2006
For little over a year’s time, my working alongside Dr. Cutler and the other Athena Institute staffers proved to be an inspiring, enlightening, and fruitful experience. Athena's science–focused effort in promoting women’s wellness and community service was, and will continually be, encouraging to myself and countless others. My multifaceted employment position allowed me the opportunity to learn a tremendous range of skills – from communicating with customers, to sending packages overseas, to becoming informed about recent studies in women’s health. Along with fostering an independent work environment, Dr. Cutler and Athena Institute simultaneously emphasized the importance of shared knowledge and focused growth. As I was completing my last year of college and transitioning into a new role as a medical student, I increasingly found that the understanding I was gaining from Athena was applicable to nearly all situations I encountered.
Kendra, Office Administrator , Summer 2006
I am so very thankful to have found Athena Institute for summer employment before leaving for graduate school to earn a Master's in American Studies. As a college student, it is often difficult to convince employers to hire you only for the summer. At Athena, however, somebody finally appreciates students who work hard. Dr. Cutler understands that college students who strive for excellence in their academics will do the same in their jobs. I am so grateful that I could spend a summer in a professional and efficient working environment. It was a great learning experience, and I have acquired skills here that I know I can use in the future. Thank you, Dr. Cutler, for giving me this great opportunity.
Amy, Assistant to the President 2004 - 2005
I decided to apply for a job at Athena Institute because it was a perfect way for me to combine my interest in women’s issues with health and medicine. I graduated from Ursinus College with a biology major (focus on pre-med) and a women’s studies minor. It was perfect timing for me since Dr. Cutler was right in the middle of doing research for her 2nd edition of Hysterectomy. I figured that assisting Dr. Cutler with her research for a scientific book would help me to understand where and how physicians and other health care practitioners get their information.
During this process I was given the opportunity to discuss and interpret journal articles involving many aspects of women’s health including, hormone replacement therapy, breast cancer, osteoporosis, nutrition, cognition and many others. In addition to assisting Dr. Cutler with her research I also assisted in managing the office. Although I had never had office experience in the past I quickly learned many skills that will help me down the road if I ever have a practice of my own.
Rachel, Office Administrator and Research Assistant
I am very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to work with Dr. Cutler for a summer at the Athena Institute. My role as Office Administrator gave me extended contact with both clients and members of the press. As her Research Assistant, I was able to assist her in the collection and organization of research pertaining to the new edition of her book, Hysterectomy: Before and After. Dr. Cutler went out of her way to engage her employees in intellectual discussions, as well as teach us about the process of conducting scientific research and running a business. I am grateful to have been able to work for an employer who is so passionate about her work and takes such an active role in the intellectual, personal, and professional growth of her employees. My experience at the Athena Institute has given me skills and knowledge that will assist me in my future professional and educational endeavors.
Please tell everyone I said hello, and pet Cynthia for me!
Megan, Office Administrator Fall 2005:
... I cannot say enough wonderful things about Athena, and about the people I have encountered working here. Your leadership has taught me a great deal, and the experience gained at Athena is irreplaceable...My last day will be Wednesday, Feb. 1... Again thank you for this wonderful experience.
Samantha, Assistant to the President 2002-2003
My ten months at Athena have been an incredible learning experience, and I am grateful for the office, business, and customer service skills I have had the opportunity to develop while working for you.
Keely, Assistant to the President 2001-2002:
After graduating from Haverford College with a degree in Animal Behavior, I worked as Assistant to the President of Athena Institute for Women's Wellness for over a year. The Athena Institute for Women's Wellness is a research institute. In addition to raising awareness on women's health issues, the Institute researches and markets two synthesized human sex-attractant pheromones.
As an animal behaviorist, pheromones became one of my interests years back, and this year I have had the exciting opportunity to work on the inside. I have also learned more about running a small business than I'd ever thought to have known - and I have helped to keep it running smoothly.
As Assistant to the President, I do everything from payroll and inventory to data analysis, and from customer service to manuscript editing. I manage and train other staff members and maintain organization of the office routine. I participate in the science that is forever the heart and soul of Athena Institute, as well as the daily nuts and bolts of the business.
I have learned of, and achieved competence in, many current issues in women's health; marketing strategies, the politics of science from original research to final journal publication, media coverage and press release distribution, and finally, the ebb and flow of a small business.
Kara, Athena Staff Member, 2002-2004
As a college student in need of part-time employment, the Athena Institute was a perfect match for me. Not only is the working environment challenging and rewarding, the hours were flexible and complimentary to my schedule. For four years, over my summer and winter breaks from college, I was an Athena staff member. My employment with Athena afforded me a preliminary experience in a professional environment where I acquired many important skills that I will take along with me as I develop my own career. I learned how to professionally represent the company to the public over the telephone by fielding questions, and taking customer orders. I was also able to sharpen my researching skills by utilizing the internet when conducting marketing research and when searching for journal sources for scientific information.
Being involved in many of Dr. Cutler's scientific research projects has not only given me a chance to utilize my intellect, but I also was able to learn more about important women's health issues. In turn, I learned a lot about myself and have become more in tune with my own personal health and well being.
It was fascinating and inspiring to see how a successful business operates, and I am glad that I had the opportunity to be a part of it.
Stacy, Intern 2001-2004:
Feeling tired of lackluster internships that offered nothing more than getting the boss a cup of coffee, I was overjoyed at becoming part of Athena Institute.
From the first day, I felt a sense of unparalleled professionalism that offers me a glimpse into how a successful business is run. I am now capable of communicating effectively with customers, because it is through them that a company thrives. As such, the Athena Institute is consistently being featured in the media for their innovations and contributions.
Dr. Cutler plays an active role in promotion her interns' futures, and allows me to sit in on her interviews since I am majoring in Journalism. In addition, I've interacted with TV personnel (Extra, Discovery Channel), and have been able to offer my ideas to our advertising managers.
On a daily basis I edit the order database, prepare customer mailings, organize product packaging, send out Airborne Express, and provide attention to our lovable corporate mascot, Cynthia (a beagle).
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