Internships and co-ops prepare Smeal students to make an impact in the real world.
Internships are a win-win opportunity for students to develop their career readiness and soft business skills and for employers to secure talent ahead of competitors. Penn State Smeal College of Business students have traditionally been ahead of their peers, as 90 percent of graduating seniors with a full-time job offer complete at least one internship or co-op experience.
Last year, 239 Smeal students participated in experiential learning programs that reinforced concepts and allowed knowledge transfer from the classroom into the professional work environment. Here are four stories that illustrate how these real-world experiences are preparing Smeal students to make an impact immediately upon graduation.
Big Brands, Influencers, and Interactive Wellness
Grace Harrell is a third-year marketing major with a minor in entrepreneurship. A Penn State gymnast and a recipient of the 2023 Big Ten Sportsmanship Award, the Cincinnati, Ohio, native suffered a devastating foot injury last year that required multiple surgeries, leaving her unable to compete or walk for three months. The time away from gymnastics gave her the mental space to apply for a summer internship at Morning Mindset with Tai, a startup business founded by internationally acclaimed fashion and entertainment journalist Tai Beauchamp.
As a marketing and administrative intern, Harrell created marketing strategies, gathered analytics on social media, and gained experience as a stage producer and talent manager for the Morning Mindset with Tai Hike and Experience event in Los Angeles.
“I had never done anything this large-scale with big corporate sponsors, but I was asked to share my input with big brands like Lululemon and negotiate deals for influencers,” says Harrell.
The event partnered with the 2023 BET Awards and athletic apparel retailer Lululemon to gather more than 280 women for an interactive wellness experience.
“My biggest takeaway is learning how business meets impact because it was amazing to see a company rally to create change by bringing so many black and brown women together to connect on such a deep level,” says Harrell.
Refocusing on gymnastics and taking an entrepreneurship course this fall, she aspires to become an entrepreneur and own investment properties such as a boutique hotel.
“My mom is head of communications for diversity, equity, and inclusion for Proctor and Gamble, and my dad is a supply chain manager at Apple, so growing up with both parents in business definitely sparked my interest in entrepreneurship,” she says.
Engaging Fans, Marketing Merch
A Malvern, Pennsylvania, native, Michael Corrigan is a third-year supply chain management major who interned at Fanatics, a global e-commerce platform and licensed sports merchandise manufacturer. “I’m a huge sports fan, so it was great for me to be able to pair those two passions. At Fanatics, you can’t apply just one specific major, there was a little bit of supply chain, a little bit of finance, and a lot of marketing, which I really enjoyed,” says Corrigan.
As a business management intern, he worked on maintaining the NFL stores, communicating with the creative teams, and sending email and social media marketing. “As a Philadelphia Eagles fan, it was very exciting to be heavily involved in a jersey launch with Fanatics that did very well, and I learned what happens behind the scenes to make it a success,” he says. “I didn’t know what to expect, because you hear stories that interns get coffee or file papers, but I was so thankful that was not my experience. I trained on Day 1 and got to work with the teams right away.”
At the end of the summer, Fanatics asked Corrigan to continue part-time through the fall on homepage updates and email marketing.
Tax Technology and Transformation
A fourth-year management information systems major, Kaitlyn McHenry will graduate in spring 2024 with a full-time job offer at EY, where she interned this past summer. EY provides companies worldwide with tax, audit, consulting, business risk, and security risk services.
As a tax technology transformations intern, McHenry worked with multiple Fortune 100 financial service clients on inputting client tax information. The East Brunswick, New Jersey, native took a computer science course in high school that sparked her interest in working with computers.
“I did not necessarily want a technical job in computer coding, but I like working with computer systems, so this position at EY aligns nicely with what I was learning in my major and the business aspects of tax consulting,” she says.
McHenry credits the power of Smeal’s alumni network for helping her make connections at companies.
“More than once, the person interviewing me was a Smeal alum, so there was an instant connection,” she says. “At EY, I was encouraged to network and connect with industry leaders, and I am grateful to work for them after graduation.”
Mapping the Supply Chain of Rare Earth
Smeal students Nicolas Rovera and Kay Tong along with Ben Cyrus, a fourth-year industrial engineering major with a minor in business, collaborated on a research project for the Penn State Applied Research Laboratory in spring 2023. Under the supervision of Bob Walter IV, the head of ARL’s logistics and operational effectiveness division, the students were challenged to map out the supply chain of neodymium, a rare earth mineral used primarily to make strong magnets for producing electric vehicles and wind turbines.
To approach the challenge, the students leveraged the expertise of their different majors, integrating industrial engineering, supply chain, and management information systems. Originally from Vienna, Virginia, Cyrus was interested in exploring the supply chain of materials, manufacturing, and the logistics side of industrial engineering. He collected data on where neodymium was mined and processed globally.
Rovera is a fourth-year supply chain management major from Pittsburgh and enjoys number crunching. He organized the research data and was the lead presenter.
“Initially, we ran into the problem of being overwhelmed with too much information and learned to refocus and narrow down the data for our visualization, which made the project way more approachable,” explains Rovera.
“Students bring unique perspectives to problem-solving that can help propel researchers to innovative solutions.”
Tong, a Bucks County native, is a third-year management information system major who used Tableau, an interactive map-based analytic tool, to aggregate the data to illustrate the supply chain of neodymium crisscrossing the globe.
“I spent the entire night before the presentation polishing up the map, but during the presentation, I felt like I could have done more. However, after the presentation, our sponsor was impressed by what we managed to pull together in one semester, so it ended up being better than we had thought,” says Tong.
Walter explains that it is invigorating to work with students because they are bright, highly motivated, and a little nervous at the start.
“Students bring unique perspectives to problem-solving that can help propel researchers to innovative solutions,” he says.
ARL invited Cyrus to work part-time through the fall to expand his team’s initial research project into global green energy supply chains to identify bottlenecks and potential shortfalls.
“The research at ARL has been challenging my mind and forcing me to think outside the box on how we can better visualize problems,” says Cyrus. “This experience has made me push past my comfort zone, explore outside my intended career path, and be more open to new possibilities.”