Heimann Professional Enrichment Endowment Fund makes international business internship possible for Robinson

ASHLAND, Ohio – Brett Robinson is a firm believer that business is built on relationships.

And with the help of faculty and a boost from an endowment fund, the Ashland University junior is already building those relationships well before he officially begins his career in international business.

Robinson, a native of Port Huron, Michigan, spent his summer interning with Bionix, a Toledo-based multinational company that acquires, develops, manufactures and markets innovative, single-patient-use medical products.

The opportunity came about as a result of Robinson’s participation in the Ohio Export Internship Program, an eight-year-old collaborative effort between the State of Ohio, higher education and private industry.  It’s mission: to help close the skills gap between Ohio companies that need employees who know how to export and students from universities across the state of Ohio who have developed those critical global business skills.

Robinson was a student in AU’s Occupational Life Calling class last fall and credits Karen Hagans, director of the Career Center for Life Calling, and Khushwant Pittenger, the academic director for business internships in AU’s Dauch College of Business and Economics, with putting him on the path to the program.

Ironically, it was athletics – specifically soccer -- that first put Ashland on Robinson’s radar. Then, he said, “I discovered what a powerhouse the business program was and I decided that’s where I needed to be.”

But Robinson’s permanent residence in Michigan put a wrinkle in his plans to intern with Bionix. Since the OEIP is an Ohio program, it offers competitive internships with Ohio-based businesses and requires that interns live in the state during the 12-week internship period.

That is where AU’s Sue Heimann Professional Enrichment Endowment Fund came in. Made possible through the generous gift of retired AU vice president of student affairs and dean of students Sue Heimann and her husband, Mike, the fund offers grants to students engaging in applied learning experiences outside the classroom. "Mike and I are grateful,” Sue Heimann said, “to help students become more than they ever imagined."

"For 36 years, Sue embodied Accent on the Individual, recognizing the uniqueness of every student. In retirement, she extended her investment in student's lives with an incredibly generous gift that allows enhanced learning outside of the classroom,” said Margaret Pomfret, AU vice president/development. “Sue found tremendous joy in guiding students to live their best life, professionally and personally."

In Robinson’s case, the fund made it possible for him to stay temporarily in an Air BNB in Maumee while he engaged in market development research and marketing strategy at Bionix. And learning to be comfortable with relocating, Robinson said, is a soft skill that will serve him well as he plans to engage the international business community. “I am years ahead of the curve of where I would be without” the OEIP and the Bionix internship, he said.

Living on his own while completing his internship also proved valuable, Robinson said, as he believes a career in international business will mean moving and adapting on a regular basis.

The classroom portion of the OEIP, which was hosted by The Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business, brought together just 25 selected students each Friday morning. It kept Robinson on the road and plenty busy, he said, but the opportunity to hear speakers from the international business community, as well as get hands-on experience in working with companies attempting to gain access to global markets was invaluable.

“This internship and the program as a whole have been exactly what I am looking for to help develop my professional career and I would not have known about it if it wasn't for you,” Robinson told Pittenger. “This internship has increased my excitement for my career after college and I cannot thank you enough for putting in so much time and effort to ensure I succeed.”

Ashland University is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University (www.ashland.eduvalues the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.###