Helen Dashney, fixed-term faculty in finance

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a tremendous impact on people’s health and the economy, causing massive amounts of change and uncertainty around the world. One change facing many students has been companies rescinding or modifying summer internship programs. Students fear that missing out on these valuable work experiences could affect their future professional opportunities and, potentially, how they fund ongoing tuition expenses.

This challenge inspired Helen Dashney, fixed-term faculty in finance, and her husband, Mac, to create the Summer Consulting Project to deliver meaningful experiences for Broad College students. Thanks to the Dashneys’ work and generous support from various alumni, the project will fund 33 students to work on 16 remote projects across eight companies.

“I wanted to find some way to help our students,” Dashney explained. “My husband and I felt that starting the Summer Consulting Project would be a great way for students to demonstrate their resiliency in overcoming disappointment and making the most of their situation while gaining new skills. And, of course, the companies will benefit from pro bono assistance where they may be understaffed due to job cuts or furloughs.”

The Summer Consulting Project will feature four- to six-week consulting projects for nine graduate students in the Full-Time MBA and M.S. in Business Analytics programs and 24 undergraduate students majoring in human resources, finance, management, marketing and supply chain management.

Dean Sanjay Gupta supported and elevated Dashney’s work, circulating the request to the Broad College Advisory Board and offering to match some of the funds raised.

“When Helen approached me with the idea, there was no hesitation. Many of our students have had their professional internships changed, and the Summer Consulting Project offers a solution,” Gupta said. “The Broad College faculty, staff and especially the Palmer Center have continually put their best foot forward to help students during this time. The Summer Consulting Project is just another example of how we are offering support to those in our community who need it most: our students.”

Jamie Wendel, rising junior in human resources management

Students will be compensated in the form of scholarships paid from donations raised through substantial support from alumni, together with some matching money from the Broad College to expand reach. A few donors paid the Broad match and instead asked the college to use those resources for student emergency funds that have been depleted.

“Alumni and corporate partners have stepped up not only to provide projects but also to provide the resources to award student participants with small scholarships ($500 per week worked) toward fall ’20 tuition,” Dashney said. “Together with some college matching money, these donor gifts will help alleviate the financial stress students are experiencing from losing their expected summer income.”

Alumni connections on the Broad College Advisory Board and the Broad College Development and Alumni Relations team, together with affiliations Dashney built during her 24-year career with the Broad College, have enabled opportunities at Amway, Apple, FUEL, Meritor, MSUFCU, Texties/Acceleron Corp., Tri-State Cast Technologies and Worldwide Express. Projects will cover everything from product research and industry analysis to improving reporting and metrics to crafting marketing campaigns and social media plans.

To identify students for the project, Dashney worked with Russell Palmer Career Management Center staff, who have served as a critical support system for companies and students alike amid the ongoing crisis.

“Marla McGraw, director of the Palmer Center, and her team were key in recruiting students for the Project,” Dashney explained. “The Palmer Center has been keeping track of students who reported having offers rescinded or those not able to find opportunities prior to the pandemic. Marla circulated information about this project to those students, and I was able to conduct the interviews and make the assignments.”

The students participating in the project are eager to be involved and grateful for the opportunity.

Meehika Patel, Full-Time MBA student

“This experience means everything,” said Jamie Wendel, a rising junior in human resources management who is interning with MSUFCU’s human resources department. “I am very appreciative of Helen Dashney’s assistance in securing this opportunity for me. I know the value companies place on internship experiences. This opportunity will further advance my experience in the workplace, thus leading me to become a more attractive new hire candidate upon graduation.”

Meehika Patel, a Full-Time MBA student who is interning with Apple, added that she’s already enjoying the experience after only a few weeks.

“I don’t feel like an external consultant,” Patel said. “Over the past two weeks, I met some incredible people who have spent the majority of their career at Apple and have been part of its growth from when the first iPhone was launched to now. They have spent time getting to know me and my interests to ensure I am having a meaningful experience.”

Dashney shared how impressed she was with the students she interviewed, and she reflected on how the project came together. “It really was a community effort, from the faculty and staff who helped iron out the details and our alumni who offered and created opportunities for our students,” she said. “We owe our Broad Spartan alumni a huge thank-you for making this all possible and for investing in our students.”