Skip to main content


Three students doing the REAL at work program

Three students doing the REAL at work program

Student Trio Launches SCU-Cisco Internship Collaboration

REAL@Work is next phase of successful REAL program

REAL@Work is next phase of successful REAL Program

By Ally O’Connor ’20

During the fall quarter, Santa Clara University students Alma Niu ‘18 (Computer Science), Pranav Rao ‘22 (Computer Science), and Arshi Jujara ‘19 (Computer Engineering) had the unique opportunity of being the first REAL@Work employees of Cisco. The trio acted as a multidisciplinary team focused on the GEMS Dashboard Project, a Cisco product that tracks internal business processes. The trio’s objective was to build a full-stack web application to automate the company’s manual Excel work.

REAL@Work, the next innovation to the College of Arts and Sciences’ REAL Program, provides ten-week experiential learning opportunities for students in the College. According to REAL Program coordinator Katy Korsmeyer, “REAL@Work aims to expand on REAL opportunities by developing student partnerships with local companies.” The internships associated with these partnerships are being deployed during the regular academic year for the first time.

Santa Clara has “long been a strategic partner with Cisco,” commented Cisco representative Antonette Ligons. “SCU is one of the most prestigious organizations that we recruit from. Cisco is happy to play our part in helping to develop the talented next generation of the workforce.” Ligons also noted that the “relationship…formed with students is really special.”

The team’s work to improve Cisco’s GEMS Dashboard leveraged off their individual skills. Noting that her “strength is versatility,” Niu “helped with both the front and back end, connecting our team's work together under time constrained deadlines. I designed the front end forms with my partner to capture the job dependencies.” Rao handled the coding, and Jujara “worked with technologies like MongoDB and Node.js that allowed [Cisco] to communicate information between the application and the database.”

The experience also allowed the students to learn lessons about group and professional work. Rao noted that the REAL internship gave him “valuable experience in Programming in a professional environment.” For Niu, her greatest takeaway from her REAL@Work internship was that “as long as you have the tenacity to learn, you can overcome your challenges.”

Since the REAL Program’s first internships began during the summer of 2018, SCU students have lead youth art camps, participated in research critical to the future of drug medication development, and even traveled to Costa Rica to study capuchin monkeys. 125 students worked as REAL interns when it launched. The program is on pace to deploy around 250 paid internship opportunities in 2018-19.


About the REAL Program

The College of Arts and Sciences developed the REAL Program to allow students to discover their interests, gain a rich understanding of a particular field, discern their career goals, and explore future employment fields. We believe financial means should not determine whether or not a student can participate in internships, research, or creative works opportunities. Committed to providing paid experiential learning opportunities for students, the REAL Program provides stipends up to $5,000 for undergraduate opportunities lasting up to 10 weeks over the summer. In 2018, its first year, the REAL Program distributed $550,000 to over 125 students.

For more information about the REAL Program, email

REAL, student story

Arshi Jujara ‘19, Alma Niu ‘18 and Pranav Rao ‘22