By Terri Hughes-Lazzell
Instead of joining their classmates on a vacation at the beach or a late-season ski trip, some Michigan State University business and engineering students took a spring break alternative that exposed them to corporate America, and possibly their future.
Through the Spring Break Corporate Tour (SBCT)—a collaboration between the Lear Corporation Career Services Center at Michigan State University’s Broad College of Business and the Center for Spartan Engineering—30 students visited seven corporations around Wisconsin and the greater Chicago area—Oshkosh Corp., Kohler Co., Eaton, Johnson Controls, AbbVie, Kraft Foods Group, and ArcelorMittal—learning about the companies and their culture, touring facilities, networking with professionals, and strengthening their professional etiquette and career development skills.
“The commitment to suit up in khakis and blouses over spring break may not be for everyone, but those who commit will be known at future career events on campus, as the inside experience and professional development from the trip truly helps form these students and molds them into a dynamic class of their own,” said Kyle Liechty, co-op/intern coordinator for the MSU College of Engineering.
In addition, students participating in SBCT had opportunities to meet with MSU alumni and to do community service. This year, students worked with representatives from ArcelorMittal painting halls and community space for Boys and Girls Clubs of America in East Chicago and Gary, in northwest Indiana.
ArcelorMittal has campus partnerships with nine of the United States’ best schools, including Michigan State University, according to Jim Lang, process coordinator with the company and an MSU alumnus. These partnerships are not taken lightly, and the SBCT participation supports that commitment to find the best and brightest minds to help transform the future of steel, he added.
This was the first year that the students in SBCT visited a region where ArcelorMittal has steel plants.
Lang applauded the program for giving students a firsthand view of how their classroom education has real-world application. He also is supportive of the community service piece added to the corporate exposure so students can see how they can impact the world in other ways as well.
The company also gains from the SBCT. “The overall experience helps to promote our company on campus and build critical brand recognition as these students share their experiences from this trip in a positive light with their peers,” Lang said.
Mark Russo, a supply chain management major, is one of those students.
“Touring a vast range of industries, we were immersed in the cultures of each corporation, providing us with a better understanding of what type of work environment we have a passion for,” Russo said.
Connections made with fellow Spartans and corporate executives across a wide range of industries were priceless for Scott Parkinson, an accounting and economics major.
“I saw the tour as an excellent opportunity to network with business professionals from all kinds of firms and be able to pick their brains about why they chose their career paths and what personally drives them,” he said. “I was also able to learn what type of role financial employees and other business-related majors play in major manufacturing firms.”
Parkinson points to networking skills as a key component of the SBCT experience. “The amount of doors I now have opened by networking with Spartan alumni in a broad range of corporations is very encouraging,” he said.
Maria Allen, a chemical engineering major, chose the SBCT to begin exploring career options.
“MSU provides us with so many extracurricular events that we have the power to mold our college careers and experiences to fit us,” she said. “I felt this was the beginning of me making my college experience worthwhile.”
The SBCT experience gave Allen insight into the type of work that might fit her interest and a better sense of direction for her undergraduate education. As a chemical engineering major, she also gained an understanding of the importance of supply chain management within a company.
Most noteworthy for her were the networking opportunities. “Networking is the key to establishing a relationship with a company of interest. Small settings like SBCT are the perfect atmosphere to better educate yourself on the company and culture,” she said.