Ehinger Fellows take online Excursion to Chicago
Though they missed out on Chicago-style pizza, a group of Trine University students still got a taste of the Windy City’s business and culture this spring through online experiences facilitated by the Ketner School of Business.
Since the spring of 2017, KSB has sponsored daylong Industry Immersion Excursions to major metropolitan areas throughout the Midwest, allowing about 30 Ehinger Fellows and potential Fellows to tour and meet leadership at companies as well as get a taste of life in the big city.
“Our goal is to expose students to different organizational models and help them understand how they impact the region, industry and employees within that organization,” said Kelly Trusty, Ph.D., who serves as advisor for the Ehinger Fellows, a student society that promotes and develops professionalism and servant leadership.
When this spring’s planned excursion to Chicago was scuttled by the COVID-19 outbreak, Trusty worked with a Trine alumna and non-traditional museum tour company to provide equitable experiences via the Internet.
“Putting the event together was exciting and collaborative,” Trusty said. “Since we started planning during the very beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, everyone involved was excited to be involved in putting it together. It was a fun distraction from everything else that was going on. Since we were already acclimating to virtual events, and our partners all had been using the tools in their businesses already, it was surprisingly easy to coordinate.”
The original event had been planned for mid-April, including visits to a startup and financial firm as well as a MuseumHack team building and problem-solving experience at the Art Institute of Chicago.
With COVID-19 restrictions closing museums, MuseumHack instead launched a virtual team-building program. The Fellows were able to take part in a 90-minute storytelling workshop on March 26 during their regularly scheduled online meeting time.
Led by two MuseumHack docents, the session covered topics such as the Five Elements of a Hack and story shortening, and included games and opportunities for the students to practice telling stories of their own.
“This was a fantastic way to teach the art of storytelling, despite the circumstances,” said Ryan Miller, a graduating senior from Saginaw, Michigan. “The ability to work in breakout groups, and practice stories that applied to us, gave all Fellows an opportunity to grow as storytellers.
“As a marketing major, it's important that I'm not only able to sell a product, but to sell myself. Being able to tell a strong story can entice customers and coworkers alike, which makes you more valuable and interesting.”
Brittani Smith, a biomedical engineering major from Indianapolis who graduated this spring, said the session was “surprisingly interactive and extremely entertaining.”
“I give major kudos to the company for finding a way to bring their experience to us via Zoom and provide us with tangible tips to take away,” she said.
From April 2-9, the group visited the Art Institute’s virtual exhibition, then creatively interpreted artworks that resonated with them, using items they had at home. The gallery was showcased when the group met April 9, with several student recreations earning recognition.
“The submissions showed a creative and funny side to everyone that I had not experienced before,” said Savannah Day, a management major from Granger, Indiana.
During the April 9 session, the group also got to meet with executives from LogicGate, a Chicago-based software as a service startup that works with governance, risk and compliance programs, and take a virtual tour of the company. Trine and Ehinger Fellows alumna Paige Stark, who works as a customer success analyst at LogicGate, helped put the event together.
“My favorite part from the Immersion Excursion with LogicGate was being able to interact with people from different parts of the company and seeing how LogicGate is operating during the pandemic,” said Aaron Brickman, a mechanical engineering major from St. Louis, Missouri. “It was awesome to get to see how a start-up works and how different it is from a traditional company.”
Smith said that overall she most enjoyed the opportunity the virtual Excursion gave her to connect with classmates while finishing the semester at home.
“The biggest lesson learned is how well we as a society can still stay in touch and interact virtually,” she said. “The climate of the world can be very discouraging, but having experiences like this through Fellows showed we can stay connected and create experiences.”
Students said the event went so well, that they would like to see some sort of virtual excursion become a regular occurrence.
“Online excursions make talking with companies located anywhere in the U.S. or world a possibility now,” said Brickman. “I think it would be awesome if we could incorporate more online excursions to go along with our in-person excursions.”
Day said the experience also helped prepare her to complete a remote internship this summer.
“I will be collaborating and working on activities online,” she said. “I am now confident in my ability to be a virtual member on a team because of Fellows.”
“I think the experience was beneficial and eye-opening for our students and our partners,” said Trusty. “We all learned that we could immerse ourselves in career-building experiences, even at a distance. And we could have fun together, even during a pandemic.”