Nathaniel Scroggins shows a light for swimmers that he redesigned during his internship at Trine University’s Innovation One. Photo by Dean Orewiler.

Students gain hands-on experience,
make connections in career fields

By Catherine E. Porter
’16 marketing and communication major

A number of Trine University students pursued experiential learning opportunities this summer through the aid of the Lilly fund.

The Lilly allowance program aims to assist students with the expenses associated with summer internships, including housing, travel, food, books and supplies. It was made possible by a grant from the Lilly Endowment, Inc., of Indianapolis, and will run for three years.

“The Lilly fund has opened opportunities to have real internships on campus during the academic year and has allowed students who would typically only have an unpaid internship to afford to have the unpaid internship,” said Jason Blume, executive director of Innovation One and overseer of the Lilly monies.

Lauren Verkamp, a junior from Franklin majoring in marketing, is a Lilly allowance recipient. This summer she has an internship with College Mentors for Kids, a nonprofit organization in Indianapolis that connects college students with at-risk and low income elementary-age children.

“The Lilly fund has enhanced my education at Trine because it allowed me to have an internship that is nonpaid but still focuses on my major and is something I am passionate about,” Verkamp said. Her duties include conducting research on alumni, creating and updating training information, supporting public relations and marketing efforts, and completing fundraising and tracking reports.

“It has been a challenge working with the restrictions, but also rewarding because it has shown me how much work a project takes from beginning to end. It has made me a well-rounded business professional,” she said.

Brendan Haile, a junior from Indianapolis majoring in criminal justice and psychology, received the Lilly allowance during his summer with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office. His duties included observing deputies and civilian workers, riding with deputies while they served summons and made arrests, and accompanying on warrant sweeps. He also spent a week in the jail watching intake, processing and cell block procedures.

“My observations came in handy a few times. Once, when we were searching a house and again when we were chasing a suspect, observations I made allowed us to find a hidden room in a house and to track down the right vehicle during a pursuit,” Haile said.

For Haile, the Lilly allowance was instrumental in allowing him to focus on his internship without working an additional job. His Lilly funds helped with gas money for the commute to downtown Indianapolis and new clothes to fit the required dress code.

“My internship has prepared me for my career greatly. It exposed me to the realities that come with a career in law enforcement,” Haile said. “It isn’t glamorous, and it isn’t always fun and easy. However, my time with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office did help affirm my career path.”

Haile also says his internship allowed him to improve his education. During his time with the sheriff’s office, he spent a week in the training academy speaking with instructors and sitting in on multiple classes. He then earned a certificate for completing 10 hours of supervisor training and passed a final exam for individuals becoming detention deputies.

Valerie Olivo is a School of Professional Studies student from Fort Wayne majoring in communication. She is serving a summer internship as a communication specialist for Mary Jane Luxury Robes, creating all corporate communications.

“This internship aligns exactly with the career path I have chosen, so this gives me real-world experience to put on my resume. It is improving my education because I can use these projects to complete assignments for my senior-level communications and marketing classes,” she said.

Because Olivo is a full-time student and is not receiving pay, the Lilly allowance helps her afford living expenses during her internship experience.

“This allowance has enabled me to take an internship at a brand-new startup business. I get to see the entire process of building a business from scratch, and I get to contribute to it. I am on the ground floor helping to build the solid foundation of this new company, and it's more exciting than I can express in words,” Olivo said. “This is an amazing opportunity and the Lilly fund made it possible.”

Nathaniel Scroggins, a senior design engineering technology major from Hanover, is a Lilly allocation recipient who works for Innovation One on Trine University’s main campus. There, he “focuses on designing or redesigning products, creating test fixtures for companies, and doing computer-aided design work for Trine or outside companies.” According to Scroggins, this opportunity has allowed him to get his foot in the door at many area companies and has given him more resume-worthy experience.

One of Scroggins’ projects involves redesigning the product of a New York-based company. Swimming Reaction Lights are colored light tubes designed to improve the overall quality of competitive swimming, especially for hearing-impaired swimmers. Scroggins’ redesign improves the aesthetics and functionality of the product while drastically cutting the cost of production.

Bryce Hina, a biomedical and electrical engineering junior from Zanesville, Ohio, is another intern with Innovation One. His work this summer includes handling any wiring, soldering and circuitry that need to be done, along with two larger projects.

Working with a urologist from the Fort Wayne area, Hina designed an incontinence pad and an incontinence liquid removal system. He is also collaborating with Tranquility Pads, located in Ohio, to design prototype pads to interface with their incontinence liquid removal system. His second project tests the lifespan of wires made by Battle Creek Equipment to determine which has the best durability.

“My internship has both prepared me for my future career and improved my education. By working closely and communicating with many different clients I think I am better prepared to communicate and work with people in my field,” Hina said. “In addition to this, the many different and unique problems I have faced with my internship have better taught me how to analyze different problems to find a good solution. I believe both of these experiences will greatly improve my experience in the workplace.”

Other summer Lilly interns include:

  • Alison Brimmer, a sophomore golf management major from Angola working at Trine’s Zollner Golf Course
  • Joseph Brinkman, a junior design engineering technology major from Ottawa, Ohio, working at Innovation One
  • Justin Chadwell, a junior computer engineering major from Portage working at Innovation One
  • Hunter Johnson, a senior exercise science major from Millbury, Ohio, working at Sweetwater Sound in Fort Wayne
  • Chris Short, a senior mechanical engineering major from McCordsville working at Innovation One

When the Lilly fund program was introduced at Trine in November 2013, eight students took part. That number increased to 48 during the first official year of the program starting June 2014. Blume expects that year two will see a similar number of student participants.

Since summer 2014, 61 total interns have been paid hourly out of the Lilly grant, nine students have been paid the Lilly allowance, one received a one-time stipend and one student has done both.

For more information on the Lilly fund, visit
For additional information about Innovation One, visit

Catherine E. Porter is a Lilly intern in the Trine University Office of University Marketing and Communication.