Tapping her business education on and off campus

Newswise — One year into her college experience at a small liberal arts school, Melissa Mann realized she wanted a different kind of business education—one that could equip her to solve challenges in a data-driven world. Mann found what she was looking for in the Lally School of Management, transferred to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and soon began drawing on her business education both on and off campus.

She credits Rensselaer’s reputation and her Lally School experience with helping her get summer internships and a job as an account manager with Procter & Gamble. Mann receives her bachelor’s degree in business and management from Rensselaer on May 19 and starts at Procter & Gamble in June.

“I believe that everyone who attends Rensselaer benefits from its longstanding, powerful reputation, regardless of industry or major,” she said. “Because of its heavier technology focus, a Rensselaer business education provides an employment advantage and gives me the tools to create ideas and techniques that can shape the world tomorrow.”

The transfer to Rensselaer wasn’t without challenges, but Mann was confident in her decision and determined to take advantage of all that Rensselaer has to offer.

“I’ve always been future-oriented,” she said. “I’m always asking, ‘What can I do better?’ ’’

Instead of focusing on the relationships she left behind, Mann turned her attention to making connections at her new school. “The experience uncovered a sense of adaptability I didn’t know I had,” she said, “a trait that I believe will help me in my career and personal life as I grow and continue learning.”

One of her best decisions was to join Union Programs and Activities Committee (UPAC) Concerts, where she held several positions, including co-president. She also seized the opportunity to put her business education to work to help UPAC Concerts and enhance student life.

Mann tapped lessons in survey design and analysis to solicit and analyze student input on UPAC Concerts programs. The results helped determine the date, venue, and styles of music featured at the 2018 UPAC Spring Concert, which nearly 1,000 students attended.

“I was the only business major in the club, and I knew that experience could be helpful,” Mann said.

The Spring Concert is the largest annual campus event and, as co-president, Mann was determined to find a way to give students what they wanted. Based on the survey data, UPAC Concerts members booked hip-hop and electronic dance music acts, held the Spring Concert in the Houston Field House, and scheduled the show for a Tuesday night, when more students could attend. Perhaps even more important, club members set the stage for how to approach decisions on future concerts.

For Mann, playing a key role in planning the Spring Concert was a highlight of her time at Rensselaer because it gave her the opportunity to work closely with the administration, students, and third-party organizations. “Throughout the process, I got to advocate for students and make concerts more easily accessible to them,” she said. “I also got to use my business knowledge and expertise to guide other members to utilitarian solutions.”

Keeping options open

The day Laura Antoniello attended a campus job fair at Rensselaer Polytechnic Instititue changed everything. She was an electronic media, arts, and communication (EMAC) major and the fair was geared for engineering jobs. But Hasbro was at the event and Antoniello was really interested in working at the company, having grown up near its headquarters. The Hasbro recruiter gave her valuable pointers.

“When the time came, I applied for a number of internships at Hasbro and was lucky enough to interview and be selected for a digital marketing position,” recalls Antoniello, who took part in the paid internship the summer after her sophomore year.  “This role sparked my passion for digital marketing, while giving me an amazing first real-world working experience.”

She went on to take part in a second internship, and then a co-op, with Hasbro, working in three different departments altogether, in digital marketing, global marketing, and project engineering.

Hers is a story about keeping options open. Growing up in Burrillville, Rhode Island, Antoniello was a creative student also strong in math and science. She was drawn to Rensselaer because the EMAC program would allow her to delve into so many areas while earning a Bachelor of Science—rather than the B.A. most design programs offer.

“Since I wasn’t sure what exactly I wanted to do after college, RPI was good because it provided the option for me to earn a more technical degree,” she explains.

She made the most of her time—taking part in research, intramural soccer, the women’s mentoring program, Tau Beta Pi, and Alpha Pi Mu, and the outreach committee for the Department of Communication and Media. Antoniello won her department’s McKinney Award for her essay devoted to soccer player Clint Dempsey. She earned a Founders Award recognizing her research in digital marketing for the Department of Communication and Media. 

She also surprised herself, becoming drawn to engineering, her parents’ profession. “I was never a tinkerer,” she says. “The stereotypical thought that engineers just build things made me think that engineering was 100 percent not the field for me.”

But she discovered Rensselaer’s industrial and management engineering program and it didn’t involve building anything. Instead, it teaches students how to get the world’s supply chain to run more smoothly, to better allocate resources in case of emergency, and how to design, optimize, and improve an endless list of systems—opening up a world of career options. IME proved the perfect second major for someone who is organized and thrives on making things run better.  

At Rensselaer, Antoniello also forged strong ties with professors and made close friends. She will graduate with a strong foundation she cannot expect to have built anywhere else. After doing some traveling, she hopes to work at her favorite company. 

“When I got my first internship, everyone knew what RPI was and knew that it was a good school,” she says. “I think that the recognition of RPI played a strong role in getting me in the door.”

Lessons from riding translate into lessons for life

Along with the challenges of pursuing a dual degree at a technological university, Alejandra Jaime-Rodriguez joined the university’s equestrian team, and with passion and perseverance, but no prior experience, qualified for a regional competition of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association.

Unfortunately, just prior to the competition, she was thrown from a horse, and was too sore to compete. She did, however, return to riding as soon as she was able.

“You don’t learn how to fall; you learn from the fall—learn from it and get back on the horse,” she says.

Jaime-Rodriguez has been riding at a fast pace since entering Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute four years ago, taking advantage of a full stable of university experiences including a rigorous academic schedule, three different undergraduate research experiences, a corporate internship, and a semester abroad at the Technical University of Denmark.

She entered Rensselaer knowing she wanted to major in economics, spurred on by dinner table discussions about the laws of supply and demand with her stockbroker father. But she wanted to add a dual degree in another subject, and to take advantage of Rensselaer’s strengths in technology and mathematics, reasons she chose to attend in the first place.

Industrial and management engineering was not unknown to Jaime-Rodriguez, based on her mother’s career, and she thought it would be a good fit with her interests in statistical analysis and supply chain management.

Jaime-Rodriguez eagerly pursued research opportunities in economics and internships in industrial and management engineering, and has been described by faculty as someone who “has a penetrating intellect, is deeply immersed in her education, and has shown a maturity and curiosity far beyond her years.”

This year she has been working with faculty in the Economics Department to create a large database of U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees in the United States to be used in analyzing the impact of sanctuary city policies on crime rates.

Furthermore, Jaime-Rodriguez has a passion for traveling—unsurprising for someone who has lived in three countries and eight cities. Already a citizen of Mexico and Spain, on her 22nd birthday in November 2017 she became a citizen of the United States of America.

Moving so frequently, which came about because of her mother’s jobs, forced her to be very social, says Jaime-Rodriguez. “Being the new girl every other year, I had to make friends with people who had already been friends for years. It forces you to be very adaptable.”

Jaime-Rodriguez spent one internship at a Procter & Gamble manufacturing facility, where she worked on different projects. While she enjoyed working in manufacturing, she became interested in consulting after speaking with a Deloitte employee during the campus career fair.

So this summer, before returning to Rensselaer to pursue a master’s in qualitative finance and risk analytics as part of the Institute’s co-terminal program, she has accepted an internship at Deloitte as a business technology analyst.

About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, founded in 1824, is America’s first technological research university. For nearly 200 years, Rensselaer has been defining the scientific and technological advances of our world. Rensselaer faculty and alumni represent 86 members of the National Academy of Engineering, 17 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 25 members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 8 members of the National Academy of Medicine, 8 members of the National Academy of Inventors, and 5 members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, as well as 6 National Medal of Technology winners, 5 National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With 7,000 students and nearly 100,000 living alumni, Rensselaer is addressing the global challenges facing the 21st century—to change lives, to advance society, and to change the world. To learn more, go to www.rpi.edu.


[email protected]

Visit the Rensselaer research and discovery blog: http://approach.rpi.edu

Follow us on Twitter: www.twitter.com/RPInews