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Summer Externship Exchange Lightning Talks

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On August 3, 2021, and August 10, 2021, respectively, more than 150 students split among 39 multidisciplinary teams gave info-packed and visually engaging presentations that detailed their summer-long externships as part of Rutgers Master of Business and Science (MBS) degree program's Externship Exchange—a unique, experiential program through which students are matched to corporate-sponsored small projects that they take from start to finish.

Addressing a large virtual audience of fellow students, faculty, staff, advisors, and corporate mentors, students discussed how they applied their integrated knowledge of science and business to solve wide-ranging, real-world challenges for companies representing a spectrum of industries, including: Bayer Pharmaceuticals, Ingredion, World IA Day, the United States Coast Guard, U-Haul, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, Rutgers University’s School of Arts and Sciences, and many more diverse organizations. For each presentation, students outlined the project challenge, the actions they took, and the results—discussing five key project elements:

  1. Background (company/industry)
  2. Problem Statement
  3. Project Approach
  4. Project Timeline, With Milestones
  5. Results

Each team was guided by both an MBS academic advisor (full team pictured below) and a mentor from the organization for which they worked. Each team also had a "Team Lead"—a student who serves as a lead project manager.  

MBS team

Program advisors pictured clockwise from top left: Assistant directors Karen Bemis, Ph.D., and Abbe Rosenthal, MA, PCC; Senior advisors Rupa Misra, Ed.D., and Lori Dars, MBA; Advisor Brian Petrus, PHR, MBA;  Lead TAs Shreya Gurjar, Dara-Mfon Akpan,  and Revathi Nair; Student worker Fiona Shafer; and Advisors Ben Nelson, Randi. Fonseca, Bryan Bischof, Ph.D., Alissa Bookwalter, M.Ed., and advisor AND alumnus Ivan Mera MBS’18.

Students can request projects directly related to their majors—allowing them to explore how their education applies to their intended careers—or they can select projects completely unrelated to their academic concentrations, which allows them to investigate different industries and career paths.  

The Externship Exchange is a win-win for both students and organizations: students gain hands-on work experience at some of the world’s leading corporations, and the organizations benefit from students’ out-of-the-box thinking and their application of classroom instruction to solve existing company challenges—working on projects for which the company might not have the staff or bandwidth.  

All externs also receive structured, specialized instruction through intensive professional development workshops where they hone skills including leadership, teamwork, problem-solving, and project presentation. 

Led by director Christie Nelson, Ph.D., the Externship Exchange has come a long way since its inception—both in the number of participating students and the number of companies requesting partnerships. The Externship Exchange started out with Nelson, one project, one partner organization, and four students. The program now has more than 150 students and 83 participating organizations. Additionally, from fall 2019 to summer 2021, the program has tripled in size.

Externships culminate with comprehensive end-of-semester presentations made to a live audience either in person or—since 2020—virtually. Gearing up for and giving the presentations is a combined experience through which externs gain even more valuable skills: in structuring their posters and then presenting them, students develop and employ (many for the first time) data visualization skills, techniques to create compelling visual design, and also improve public speaking—all elements of which, when combined, yield impactful presentations.

The MBS Externship Exchange opportunity is open to students of all majors during the fall, spring, and summer semesters. For students or companies interested in the program, please contact Dr. Nelson at  cnelson@dimacs.rutgers.edu

Jen Reiseman-Briscoe
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