Outside the Classroom

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A great way for students to supplement their classroom education is with real-world experiences, such as the Carlson School’s Enterprise programs and internships. The number of companies offering internships has grown in recent years, with the 2014 Career and Internship Fair being the largest to date, with 94 participating companies. The fall 2015 fair is likely to surpass this number.

Meet four students who are augmenting their education, outside the classroom. 

A Fashionable Internship

Carlson School junior Kohlman Harshbarger recently completed a summer internship on the East Coast. “I had desired to go to New York City and work in fashion,” he says. “A very loose term, I know, but a starting point nonetheless. When attending my marketing professor’s office hours in April of my spring semester, he had asked me what I was interested in pursuing after graduation. Once I explained my ambitions, we dove headfirst into a full-blown conversation about different brands, boutiques, and companies that we were both familiar with. Upon leaving his office, he informed me that he had someone who I should reach out to.”

That person was a past student, a Carlson School alum, and a CPA at EY who decided to move to New York to pursue his interest in fashion. He currently works at Fendi. “I reached out and heard back. I was to let him know when I was going to be in the city,” Harshbarger says. “By the time school concluded, I had another interview in New York City in a non-related field and was there only a few days after moving out of my fraternity house. I spent the week hustling the streets of the city and toting around a stack of resumes within my black leather Carlson School portfolio. During this week, I had a meeting with my Fendi contact. After being quizzed on fashion, designers, and a slew of other things, he asked to see my resume. A job had opened up a few days before, and he was looking for a replacement. He thought I might be a good candidate, and asked me to apply.”

Harshbarger found out on Friday of that week that he got the job as the men’s wholesale assistant at Fendi. His first day on the job was the following Tuesday.

In wholesale, Harshbarger sold leather goods, shoes, and women’s and men’s ready-to-wear collections all across the country to vendors such as Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman, and Neiman Marcus. He worked specifically for the men’s account executive but assumed responsibilities for the entire department. His day-to-day activities always changed, but he was always doing something to support Fendi’s current business and promote its growth. He prepared presentations and product knowledge packages for training and morning clinics at vendors’ stores and researched prospective specialty accounts to assist in analyzing opportunities for strategic expansion.

“I worked with a lot of large data—Excel pages for days—to compile a myriad of quantitative reports for selling by account and store and helped in building these relationships by facilitating front-end support for Fendi’s personalization program for handbag tags,” he says. “But thankfully all my work wasn’t limited to the Microsoft Office Suite! I attended all department meetings and was encouraged and allowed to bring my own ideas to these meetings. I also worked on a large e-commerce project to aid in the development of Fendi’s e-commerce program and eventually presented it to a panel of upper-level executives.”

Through his internship, Harshbarger says he learned how to apply and utilize the concepts that he had learned in the classroom to the problems that he was presented with at work. He had a fairly ceaseless stream of this work and because of this, had to seek out creative and effective solutions for completing his daily tasks and responsibilities. “There is a certain type of autonomy that exists in ‘real-world’ work environments that you can’t find in a classroom,” he says. “Your coworkers are able to help if need be, but they also have enormous workloads to complete as well and can’t spend the time with you that a professor or TA could. Not all the problems that I had to deal with had a concrete solution, and there wasn’t a guidebook that told me how to do everything. I had to try, make mistakes, and learn. And then repeat that process every day.”

After graduation, Harshbarger would like to continue to work in fashion, whether that is in wholesale, marketing, brand management, or design. “My plans are always subject to change, though,” he says. “As I learn and grow and as my priorities change over my lifetime, it only makes sense that my vision for the future will do the same. At the end of the day, I want to work somewhere that I’ll not just enjoy, but love. I’d consider myself successful if I can find a place where I am excited to head to every morning and disappointed to leave at the end of the day.”

From Agricultural School to Finance

When Laura McKee came to the University of Minnesota as a freshman, she was enrolled in the agricultural school as a nutrition major with a management minor. After her spring semester, she found that she was much more interested in her accounting and statistics classes than any of her other courses. Now a senior, she is majoring in accounting and finance and had spent the summer as an FSO tax intern at EY in the Twin Cities. 

She won her internship by attending the Carlson School’s annual fall career fair. “I talked with the recruiter there, and I had a great feeling about the company from that day forward. After the fair, I was selected for the interview rounds and finally selected for the position,” she says. “That is one of my favorite things about the Carlson School—the recruiting process. The experience is one of the best opportunities for students, and it made my interviewing process so much less stressful.”

At EY, McKee learned how to finish a project or task with a certain degree of quality in a time-pressured environment. “Exams are about the only thing that has time pressure in the educational setting, but you are still given a substantial warning on the timeline,” she says. “At my internship, I was assigned a task in the morning that needed to be completed that day with minimal guidance, but with the expectation of quality and confidence in my work. I definitely learned a different type of time management skill than I have in the classroom.”

She’ll get more opportunities to hone these skills at EY as this internship ended with a job offer that she eagerly accepted. She’ll begin work in the fall of 2015 after graduation. “I am really excited about working at EY and about what the future holds in general outside of school,” she says. “I am so thankful for the opportunities and guidance that the Carlson School and my professors have provided. I know I am well equipped for entering the real world and I am excited to fully enjoy my final year here.”

Into the Political Arena

When Mike Schmit was a freshman at the Carlson School, he was looking for college organizations that could provide him with a broad set of experiences that would be applicable regardless of what he decided to do later in his collegiate and professional career. Because he finds the intersection of business and government intriguing, he looked into student government. That look paid off, as he was elected student body president, which he served from July 2013 to June 2014.

“Student government has allowed me to get up close and personal with the policy creation process,” he says. The student body president serves as the lead student advocate for the University’s 31,000 undergraduates at the local, state, and federal levels. Along with the student body vice president (Fiona Cummings, another Carlson School student), Schmit led the Minnesota Student Association, an umbrella organization with more than 200 members and a $200,000 annual budget.

During his tenure as president, Schmit led a comprehensive effort to address the issue of crime on campus. “This effort included a peer-to-peer educational campaign, an expansion of the University’s Gopher Chauffeur safe ride service, and the installation of about 100 motion sensor lights in poorly lit areas in the neighborhoods surrounding campus,” he says. “Another great thing to come out of last year was a textbook exchange website called U-Swap.org that allows University of Minnesota students to easily trade used textbooks with one another. Nate Shrader, another Carlson student, championed this project.”

Schmit says leading a large organization in a safe environment allowed him to try out different leadership styles, an opportunity that very few people are privileged with. “As a result, I’ve become a much better communicator and leader,” he says. “Also, I got to take selfies with some pretty important people, so there’s that.”

Now a junior, Schmit plans on working for a few years in either management consulting or corporate finance after graduation. He also hopes to come back for an MBA and work on economic development projects in developing nations.

Putting his political hat back on for a moment, Schmit wants to thank all of the active and engaged alumni for their ongoing relationship with the University. “Your support—whether it’s through contributions to the school, mentorship for current and recently graduated students, or enthusiastic cheering at Gopher games—is hugely critical to the success of our students and University,” he says. “Keep being awesome. Ski-U-Mah!”

Balancing Academics with Athletics

In high school in Roseville, Minnesota, Lee Stecklein played on four varsity teams—soccer when she was a freshman and sophomore, tennis as a junior and senior, and hockey and lacrosse all four years. She is currently on the Gopher women’s hockey team and a Carlson School sophomore. 

In balancing a demanding athletic schedule with a full undergraduate course load, she demonstrates a drive to succeed. Her schedule was even more demanding recently, as she took a year off to move to Boston to train for the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. She was the youngest of 21 players named to the U.S. Olympic Women’s Ice Hockey Team.

“The Olympics itself was a crazy experience, one that’s indescribable,” she says. “One of my favorite memories from the Olympics is the day two teammates and I went on a bike ride through the Olympic park in order to get as close as possible to the flame. This might be the moment it hit me that I was actually at the Olympics.”

Playing defenseman, she helped the team defeat Finland, Switzerland, and Sweden to make it to the gold medal game against Canada. Unfortunately, luck ran out for the U.S. team. It lost to Canada 3-2 in overtime.

“Juggling all of my athletic and academic responsibilities can be a little overwhelming, but most of the time it is manageable,” she says. “I learned a lot my freshman year about managing my time and have gotten fairly good at using what little bit of time I do have as efficiently as possible.”

Right now, Stecklein is undecided on her major and says she’ll have a better idea of her interests after she completes her immersion core classes. “In my next three years at the Carlson School, I hope to get smarter, gain connections, and learn as much as I can about the business world,” she says. Stecklein also plans to play Gopher hockey for the next three years. “The year right after that will be another Olympic year, and I hope to be a part of that team when the time comes,” she says. “Professionally, I’m hoping to use these next few years at the Carlson School to help me figure out what comes after my hockey career.”