Nikkhil Niranjan was looking for a summer business camp that would inform his career plan while also pushing him out of his comfort zone. The soon-to-be-senior from East Chapel Hill High School in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, did his homework, too, reading about camps across the country with his dad, a business consultant at Oracle.
“GopherBusiness jumped out at me,” Niranjan said as his week at the Carlson School neared its end. “I was really excited to come here.”
Niranjan was one of 57 high school juniors and seniors-to-be who spent last week at the Carlson School as part of the eighth edition of GopherBusiness, which brings high-achieving, diverse students with an interest in business to campus. He was particularly intrigued by taking introductory classes with faculty members and visiting a new state.
“It’s everything I expected,” said Niranjan, who’s now contemplating a future in finance. “It’s interesting to see different perspectives and different viewpoints. …
“Before this, I was not the most talkative person. I was pretty shy. So here, I was able to step out of my comfort zone, and especially being from out of state, I had to get out of my comfort zone to be here.”
GopherBusiness participants got an up-close look at business through a packed week that included classes on specific fields, visits to local companies, and a case competition.
The program allows students like Nectaree Thao, from Highland Park High School in St. Paul, to build on an existing career interest—in Thao’s case, advertising and marketing.
“It has increased my appetite a lot more,” she said.
Others, such as Immanual John Milton, from Eagan High School in Eagan, Minnesota, discover previously unknown potential professional paths like consulting.
“I didn’t really know this kind of career existed,” he said.
“A quote that really stuck out to me is you don’t want to reverse engineer your career; you want to let yourself be you and then go forward from there. Whatever happens, happens, and that will lead you to your eventual career.”
—Immanual John Milton, Eagan High School, Eagan, Minnesota
An insider’s look
The students visited the headquarters of three major Twin Cities-based companies—Target, Land O’Lakes, and Travelers—to get a sample of day-to-day operations and company cultures.
“I’ve realized how many opportunities there really are around here,” said Deanna Wallin, from Carlton High School in Carlton, Minnesota.
Diana Zhu, from Mounds View High School in Arden Hills, Minnesota, enjoyed the panel discussions at the site visits, “because it gave us a chance to actually directly talk to people who work there and intern there.”
Stating their case
The most time-intensive part of the week for the students was a case competition on behalf of the nonprofit Volunteers of America of Minnesota and Wisconsin. Working in teams, the students brainstormed, sharpened, and presented ideas for supporting marketing and fundraising efforts connected to the organization’s Amicus ex-offender mentoring program.
“It was interesting to see how we can actually help a real nonprofit organization,” said Niranjan. “It wasn’t a simulation, it was an actual real thing that you feel you’re a part of. Their struggle that they face is sort of our struggle, too, because we have to help them.”
The case competition was an introduction to the kind of teamwork that’s essential to success in nearly every field—in Zhu’s words, “there are a lot of different types of people and they all bring different things, and it’s OK if people don’t work the exact same way.”
“It’s just nice to get experience on working together as a team and trying to solve a real-world problem.”
—Federico Marti Garo, Gulf Coast High School, Naples, Florida