First-year students embark on a remarkable Career Ed*Venture.
Champlain College promises a four-year adventure of endless opportunity, innovative thinking, and a growing sense of the world. In the spring of 2019, 11 students—many of them first-years—experienced this prized opportunity first hand when they pitched 5G tech ideas to top executives at Samsung Electronics America outside of New York City.
The one-of-a-kind trip was organized by Champlain’s Career Collaborative team as part of its “Career Ed*Venture” initiative. Thanks to the Collaborative’s diligence in cultivating an extraordinary network of career partners, Champlain students experienced something most only see as a graduate student.
An Unforgettable 24-Hour Journey
Hours before the sun rose on Wednesday, April 16, students departed for Burlington International Airport in suits and blazers, ready to embark on a 24-hour journey unlike any other Champlain student has experienced. They were headed to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, and they were ready to wow those waiting for them on the other end.
“I’ve had a lot of opportunities to do really amazing things, solely because of Champlain, and this is one of them,” said Computer & Digital Forensics major Cecilia Pohlar ‘21.
Upon arriving at JFK, a short drive to Ridgefield, NJ led the students to Samsung’s headquarters. Mark Louison, a Champlain parent and Vice President and General Manager of Networks, welcomed the group—many of them nervous for what was ahead.
Three teams of students pitched ideas to Louison and his colleagues, who are looking to further their 5G network. The ideas originated in the students’ classes: Two sparked in a first-year, introductory business class called “BUS 110: Business & the Entrepreneurial Mindset,” and the third blossomed from Champlain’s Game Studio, where gaming majors from all four disciplines—Production Management, Programming, Art, and Design—collaborate on projects.
“The Samsung employees’ engagement in our projects was huge,” said Marketing major Riley Seith ‘22. “They took us seriously, and the feedback they gave us was really helpful. We’re taking it to heart going forward and are really appreciative of the connections we made.”
Run With It
Seith and her teammates pitched a running app for women that focuses on safety. While the target audience is college-aged women—a group proven to feel unsafe while running outside—the app is also applicable to others running in unknown places, such as those traveling for work or visiting a new city.
Seith’s Marketing classmate Mackenzie George ‘22, Accounting major Christina VonDrehle ‘22, and Pohlar rounded out the team, forming a unique collaboration between different disciplines. Pohlar’s expertise adds a security focus to the app, which would host a great deal of users’ personal information. The group was both “professional and impressive,” Samsung executives noted in their remarks.
Their model includes a multitude of features, but the team is keeping details under wraps, as they hope to develop the app before they graduate—even if it means doing so outside of the classroom. They’re interested in seeking investors, which Professor Tom Myers, Department Chair of the Robert P. Stiller School of Business (SSB), is excited to help with.
Louison is here to help, too. “If you continue to work on this and get to the point where you’re looking to get it in the App Store, we’re happy to connect you with our contacts to help you do so,” Louison said.
His promise of resources is encouraging. “Knowing we have connections to help us in the future eases my mind a bit,” George said of the work still to come to get the app up and running.
Pohlar says her favorite part of the experience was “how invested the [executives] were in our lives and futures. I felt like I could ask them anything, such as ‘What should I do to get a job?’ and ‘What are you looking for in candidates?’”
In Case of Emergency
The day’s second pitch originated from three Computer Networking & Cybersecurity students, Christopher Adkins, Aaron Leach, and David Serate, who were first-years at the time. The team pitched their idea for a wearable device, geared toward people who are hard-of-hearing. The device would take an individual’s surroundings into account and vibrate to alert them of possible emergency situations—such as fire alarms, police sirens, or a dog barking because someone is at the door.
As all great projects are, the pitch was personal. Leach’s grandfather is hard-of-hearing, and some time ago, a fire blazed through his home. He wasn’t wearing hearing aids, so he didn’t know the fire alarm was sounding. If it wasn’t for his grandmother being home, the outcome could have been a lot worse.
Leach says the feedback the team received from Samsung “was really, really helpful.” Still, the networking lunch stuck with him most.
“It was almost like an equalizer,” Leach said. “We talked about things related to cybersecurity and tech, but also about lifestyle—like making sure you’re eating enough when you’re busy.”
These candid conversations gave him a better understanding of juggling life in the working world, he said—a world he will soon enter.
Pet Lovers Rejoice
Last but not least, the third pitch of the day came from the junior Game Studio team: Game Design major Timothy Carbone, Game Art & Animation major Michelle Lee, Game Programming major Andrew Rimpici, and Game Production Management major Brett Schwartz.
The group presented a virtual and augmented reality app for pet lovers. Geared toward people who don’t have an animal of their own, such as college students living in a residence hall, each user in the game adopts and raises their own virtual pet. They care for the pet, play with it, and take it to meet other pet friends at local parks.
Did you have a Tamagotchi as a kid? Or did your child have one? The idea is similar, but on a mobile device. A 5G mobile game is 10 times faster than a mobile game using 4G, and your phone’s battery stays alive much longer, the students explained.
Plus, the meetup feature adds social and physical activity. Augmented reality mobile games, such as this one and Pokémon Go, aim to get gamers off the couch and outside socializing with others. The students’ game would do so, bringing pet lovers from around the area together at local hotspots, such as parks and beaches.
With Samsung’s Gear VR, a virtual reality head-mounted display, gamers could virtually pet their dog or even throw a frisbee to their furry friend.
“This brings players even closer into the experience,” Schwartz said. To keep players engaged, the animal owner gains pet treats during the day, even when they don’t have the app open.
“Thanks to pedometers in phones, players can have their movement tracked,” Schwartz said. “As they move throughout the day, they’ll gain pet treats—the currency of the game.”
The executives’ feedback for groups ranged from clarifying questions, to presentation tips, including length, organization, and preparation, to what aspects of their project could or couldn’t thrive in the 5G world. They talked about what they’ve explored before, what trends stick with their consumers, and where their 5G network is headed in the future.
To get a better understanding of Samsung’s role and goals for its 5G network, Louison and his colleagues Alok Shah, VP of Strategy, Business Development, & Marketing, and Magnus Ojert, VP & GM of the Verizon Account Team, each gave presentations prior to the students’ pitches.
Lina Kim and Michelle Tagmyer, both of Samsung’s University Relations team, also enlightened the Champlain crowd about internship and job opportunities.
In the end, it was the executives’ concluding feedback that settled all nerves in the room, and sparked confidence for students, staff, and faculty alike.
“Your presentations were impressive,” Louison told the students. Better presented and prepared for, he said, than some of his own top-level colleagues—a true testament to Champlain. He wants to continue bringing students to Samsung headquarters to present ideas.
“There is a huge demand for people in the workforce that have the skills Champlain is teaching,” said Louison. “Champlain’s mission is spot on, and it’s producing the kind of people we’re looking to bring into our company. Today’s visit exceeded our expectations.”
More From the Working World
With the stressful part over and lunch in their systems, students relaxed their shoulders, removed their ties, and headed to theSkimm office in New York City. They were met by Karisa Desjardins ’16, a Business Administration and Global Studies graduate, now serving as theSkimm’s Community Coordinator.
She gave the group a tour of the company’s bright, modern, open-layout office before sitting down to tell them about her Champlain journey and offer advice for finding the right job after graduation, paying student loans, lifestyle hacks, and more.
Once students said their thanks, the group walked to Madison Square Park to enjoy springtime in NYC. Colorful tulips surrounded the students as they drank shakes from Shake Shack before being set free to explore the city for an hour.
The same went for Dean of SSB Scott Baker, Career Collaborative Associate Director and SSB Career Coach Pat Boera, Career Collaborative Director Tanja Hinterstoisser, SSB Department Chair Myers, and Dean of the Division of Communication & Creative Media Paula Willoquet-Maricondi.
This team of individuals showed endless dedication to ensuring their students got the most out of this incredible experience. They truly care about their students’ success on both a personal and professional level.
Connecting With Champlainers From Around the Region
Soon after, the group convened for the last activity of the day: The NYC Champlain Connect Event at nearby restaurant, Bread & Tulips.
Students networked with local employers, alumni, Champlain families, and incoming first-years. The lively crowd welcomed the Samsung group, intrigued by their trip and pitches. As 8:00 PM rolled around, the students (and their exhaustion) headed back to the JFK airport to catch the last flight back home.
A whirlwind of a day was coming to a close, but the excitement and satisfaction of what they just accomplished was still buoying in their conversations as they waited to board their flight.
By 2 AM, a full 24 hours later, everyone was back safe and sound in Burlington thinking and dreaming about sleep—but also about what their next step was to further their project. They had taken the Champlain motto to heart: Let Us Dare. They’d dared to put themselves out there and be critiqued by some of Samsung’s top leaders. And it paid off.