Co-Op stories: Student’s internship highlights importance of networking

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Editor’s note: This story is part of a series profiling the summer 2021 internship experiences of undergraduate students participating in Penn State Schuylkill Co-Op. For more stories like Ellis’s, visit schuylkill.psu.edu/co-op-stories. The series is written by Courtney Weikel, a fourth-year Penn State Schuylkill student majoring in corporate communication and completing her summer internship in the campus’s Office of Strategic Communications.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Corinne Ellis, a fourth-year corporate communication major at Penn State Schuylkill, is polishing her networking skills and seeing legislative policy in action on Capitol Hill during her summer internship with the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association Organization through The Fund for American Studies.

“I chose to be a part of The Fund for American Studies (TFAS) because this program offers a lot of opportunities such as networking with senators, lobbyists and lawyers; taking additional classwork in economics; and being able to live and thrive in the center of democracy,” said Ellis. “Also, this internship is preparing me for law school and helping me network with potential future employers.”

TFAS is a non-profit educational organization whose primary goal is to inspire future leaders and provide them with hands-on experience in their desired career paths in economics, law, international affairs and communications.

Since her internship began, Ellis has been attending networking events and lectures, and has the opportunity to explore Washington, D.C., in her free time. Ellis recalled some particularly memorable moments from her internship: “The most fun educational lectures I have attended were an ‘ABCs of Lobbying’ event, Sen. Rand Paul’s lecture, and listening to congressional meetings on Capitol Hill.”

Ellis resides in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, and in addition to her major in corporate communication is pursuing a minor in communication arts and sciences. Throughout her college career, Ellis has been active in several clubs and organizations in addition to Penn State Schuylkill Co-Op. These include serving as vice president of Lambda Pi Eta and as president of the Penn State Schuylkill Honors Program, as well as participating as an active member in the Student Government Association.

Kate Zimmerman, Penn State Schuylkill’s director of cooperative education, said, “Corinne has been an incredible asset to campus as a whole and Co-Op specifically. During our first course in fall 2020, she spoke to the younger students about the benefits of internships, as she has also interned with two of our consortium employers — Pressed Coffee & Books and The Bridal Studio. She’s awesome!”

Also important to Ellis is participating in the undergraduate research program. During her sophomore year, Ellis was one of four students to receive the Communication Research Award. Her sole-authored research on “‘Razzle Dazzle ‘Em: A Rhetorical Analysis of Facework in the Musical ‘Chicago,’” was presented in April 2021 at the Eastern Communication Association virtual conference.

Ellis took a break from her busy internship schedule and spoke with us about her unique experience in Washington, D.C.

Q: Describe a day in the life at your internship.

Ellis: I intern at the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) where I help work on legislative policy, press releases, and listen to meetings with Congress. ASLRRA is a trade association that represents over 500 short line railroads in the United States. TFAS helped connect me with this internship for this summer.

Q: How have your co-op courses prepared you for your summer internship?

Ellis: Through co-op courses, I learned how to dress appropriately for the job, and I learned valuable networking tips that I have taken with me to Washington, D.C.

Q: How will this internship help prepare you for future careers and with your major?

Ellis: This internship at ASLRRA and TFAS has helped me make connections with prominent leaders in D.C. and helped me decide what law school I want to attend in D.C. In addition, they are giving me work experience for my future career that helps me stand out amongst my peers.

Q: How did you hear about the co-op program?

Ellis: I heard about the co-op program through a friend on campus. I immediately signed up for the courses, and I have had a total of three internships since I signed up last fall.

Q: What advice do you have for students looking to join the co-op program and find internships?

Ellis: You cannot be afraid to fail, and you cannot be afraid to be outgoing towards employers. You have to be willing to find ways to stand out and make sure future employers remember who you are before you walk out of that door.

Q: How have you been spending your time in Washington, D.C.?

Ellis: The pandemic restrictions have not been a huge issue in D.C., but it is hard to get into government buildings — I need an escort to get in and out. Because of this, I have not been able to attend congressional meetings in person, but I am still able to learn so much despite those meetings being held virtually.

However, everything else is fairly back to normal, and every day is a fun adventure exploring the city with my friends from TFAS! For example, we watched fireworks at the Washington Monument on the Fourth of July and toured the other national monuments such as the Lincoln Memorial and Jefferson Memorial.

About Penn State Schuylkill Co-Op

To learn more about Penn State Schuylkill Co-Op and how you can get involved as either a student or an employer, visit schuylkill.psu.edu/co-op or contact Kate Zimmerman, director of cooperative education, at ksz5013@psu.edu or 570-385-6296.

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