When Syracuse University had to transition to online learning last March, many students at the Martin J. Whitman School of Management had long secured summer internships to add to their resumes. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies were forced to cancel internships and rescind job offers. However, with the help of the Whitman career advisors, alumni relations, corporate relations and development teams, the vast network of alumni from the Whitman School came to the rescue with a variety of virtual experiences that helped students gain hands-on learning, fulfill their internship requirement and establish valuable connections.
AJ Damiano ’18, CEO of PowerSpike, an all-in-one Twitch influencer marketing platform, believes this summer was the perfect opportunity to take on virtual student interns to help his company grow. “When we first launched PowerSpike in 2015, the Whitman School and Syracuse University community were pivotal in our early success and enabled our organization to get off the ground. Working with Whitman to build our internship program for 2020 was a natural fit and enabled us to work with a roster of incredibly talented students who delivered exceptional results,” he says.
Like Damiano, many alumni stepped up to offer unique opportunities to Whitman students during the summer months. COVID-19 had forced both students and employers to adapt to how they learned and worked. That agility converted internships into virtual experiences that allowed for mutually beneficial experiences.
“I have always wanted to help students on their journey, because I remember having difficulties finding work when I was their age,” says Adam Kukoff ’10, co-founder and CEO of NUTSÓLA, a company that created a “super food” mix of natural ingredients for healthier snacking. “While I may have been supporting Whitman students, I think it was the students who were really supporting me. I wanted to do everything in my power to put them into a position where they could succeed.”
Through these virtual internships, Whitman students had the opportunity to access company leaders, experience various business functions and gain job-ready skills.
Gianna Coburn ’21 was one of the students who benefited fromthe help of of the Whitman alumni community. A marketingmanagement and retail management double major, Coburn interned with NUTSÓLA as a direct-to-consumer email marketing intern.
“It was interesting to work with a startup this summer,” Coburn says. “I got to experience how the company launched products and navigated its business during a pandemic. I was working on projects that were making a direct impact. I really appreciated the opportunity that the Whitman network was able to provide me.”
A founding and current member of the Young Whitman Advisory Council, Corey Passarella ’11 exemplifies the Whitman alumni spirit that came through for students this summer.
“I generally tend to favor a collaborative office environment. However, life throws unexpected obstacles at you sometimes, and you have to do your best to manage them. Right now, that means making the most collaborative virtual working environment possible,” says Passarella, who is CEO of Vale Inc., a media technology company that builds software for digital content customers. “I was pleased to bring Whitman students onboard to be a part of this new way of working.”
He says, “I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have great people invest in my development early in my career, and I believe it’s incumbent upon me to give back and help the next generation of Syracuse students find their paths.”