At a time when summer internships were being modified or rescinded, Helen Dashney, fixed-term faculty in the Department of Finance, and her husband, Mac, were inspired to do something to support students. The Dashneys connected with Broad alumni to launch the Summer Consulting Project, offering meaningful experiences for 33 students working remotely across eight companies this summer.
Students took on opportunities at Amway, Apple, FUEL, Meritor, MSUFCU, Texties/Acceleron Corp., Tri-State Cast Technologies and Worldwide Express. Doors were opened at these companies thanks to alumni support and connections on the Broad College Advisory Board and the Broad College Development and Alumni Relations team, together with affiliations Dashney has built during her 24-year career with the Broad College.
The alumni involved shared that the Broad students lived up to what it means to be a Spartan: getting the job done with determination and grit.
“We definitely said on more than one occasion, ‘Wow, I couldn’t have done this when I was in college,’ throughout the six weeks with the team,” Joel Clum (B.A. Finance ’08), chief operations officer at Worldwide Express, said. “I knew that we were going to get to tap into some really talented MSU students who would deliver an incredible output that we didn’t have the bandwidth to tackle on our own.”
Two supply chain students were tasked with assisting Clum and various VPs at Texas-based Worldwide Express on developing real-time forecasting to understand customer value.
“Despite the challenges of working virtually, they dove right in to understand our business and the problem we were attempting to solve … We were all really impressed,” Clum said. “The framework and tool that they’ve helped us to architect will serve as the foundation to understand the various touchpoints that go into servicing customers and ultimately help us to understand the value of our customers across multiple segments in the business.”
Students exceed expectations
Priya Balasubramaniam (MBA ’01), VP of operations at Apple, was able to offer work to eight graduate students through the project and said the experience was inspiring.
“We were thrilled to find new ways to bring hands-on learning experiences to Broad students this summer. We had an incredibly collaborative and productive experience with the Summer Consulting Project students,” she said. “Teamwork is such an important part of our innovation here at Apple, and together, the students and their mentors made significant accomplishments over the course of six weeks, leaving us with tangible results and projects we can carry forward.”
Father-son duo Andy and John Darien, who lead foundry and machining organization Tri-State Cast Technologies, were eager to have Broad students address challenges that arose for the company during the pandemic. Andy (MBA ’68), president and CEO, and John (B.A., MBA Professional Accounting ’92), VP and CFO, agreed that the project far exceeded their expectations.
“This is a testament to the Broad College curriculum and how well it prepares students,” John said. “It also highlights Helen Dashney’s efforts, who coordinated the project from the Broad College, at matching our project with the appropriate student team.”
John served as the project lead, hosting daily meetings to develop project outlines, deliverables and expectations, and Andy shared valuable insights along the way. At the culmination of the experience, the students gave a final presentation of their findings to Tri-State staff, partner companies and MSU faculty and staff.
“The students did a great job on the project, and the sponsors appeared extremely pleased with the quality and scope of the work they performed,” Stanley Griffis, John H. McConnell Professor of Business Administration and faculty advisor for the Tri-State project, said. “I think the students had their eyes opened to the importance of small- to medium-sized businesses to the U.S. economy and came away with a newfound appreciation for the complexity of supplier selection in a global supply chain setting.”
John Darien reflected on the importance of giving back to his alma mater through his time, knowledge and expertise.
“Becoming a Spartan was one of the most important decisions I have ever made. I attribute much of my success today back to my learning at MSU,” he said. “This was a fantastic opportunity to give back to MSU while providing our two students with invaluable exposure to real-world business challenges that would supplement their academic work. They saw decision making that neither they nor us were taught in school: how to manage a supply chain during a global pandemic.”
Alumni provide exceptional support
Alumni not only provided valuable work opportunities across these companies but also offered generous support to compensate the students involved. Donations from alumni at the firms and other long-time donors, contributions from the firms themselves, as well as some matching money from the Broad College, enabled student participants to receive fall semester scholarship awards for their efforts.
“As soon as I became aware about the program and what Helen was trying to do for the students, I immediately wanted to do everything I could to support her mission and vision,” said Balasubramaniam, who was a donor in addition to offering projects at Apple.
David Vargo (B.A. Finance ’79), a member of the Financial Markets Institute board, and his wife, Sheila Collins, have long been supporters of Dashney’s endeavors and were eager to be involved with the Summer Consulting Project.
“Sheila and I feel strongly that internships are critical to student development: enhancing classroom experience, building resumes with relevant experience, providing exposure within a professional environment and supplying necessary income for fall tuition,” Vargo said. “Helen spoke with us about possible alternatives and we decided to help fund student scholarships.”
“I am most grateful to all the alumni and firms who made the summer experiences possible and to Dean Sanjay Gupta and colleagues who joined me in this effort,” Dashney said. “It is rewarding to see the students involved starting the next school year with renewed confidence.”
It’s through these experiences that Broad Spartan alumni form a bond with current students and prove that Spartans Will advance the future of business together.