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“Students found internships in solar technology, sustainable energy, organic food — areas that are completely different from what they routinely work in,” says Mohanbir Sawhney, the Robert R. McCormick Tribune Foundation Clinical Professor of Technology and director of the center.

Mohanbir Sawhney

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A stipend program by the Center for Research in Technology & Innovation helped to create ‘a whole universe of opportunities’ for students, even during a down economy

By Rachel Farrell

9/30/2009 - Last spring, as Kellogg student Brandon Cornuke ’10 surveyed his options for a summer internship, he realized he had two choices: take a low-paying job that looked interesting, or pursue a better-paying but less-inspiring opportunity.

Thanks to a stipend from the Kellogg School’s Center for Research in Technology & Innovation, the choice was easy. Cornuke was able to take the lower-paying position — an internship with Dropps, a start-up company that manufactures ultra-concentrated laundry detergent — by supplementing his income with a scholarship from the center.

At Dropps, Cornuke gained experience in pricing and fulfillment strategies — two areas the former IT consultant was interested in exploring professionally. Without the stipend, Cornuke says, he would have missed out on what he describes as a “very enriching experience.”

That’s one of the motivating factors behind the center’s internship stipend program, which debuted at Kellogg last spring. Recognizing that the economic downturn has made it harder for students to find internship opportunities, the center awarded a total of $250,000 in scholarship money, enabling 45 students to accept low- or no-paying summer positions in innovation or technology.

“The stipends opened up a whole universe of opportunities for students that I think they wouldn’t otherwise have been able to pursue,” explains Mohanbir Sawhney, the Robert R. McCormick Tribune Foundation Clinical Professor of Technology and director of the center. “Students found internships in solar technology, sustainable energy, organic food — areas that are completely different from what they routinely work in.”

That was the case for Soumitra Mishra ’10, who interned this summer at GreatPoint Ventures, a Cambridge, Mass.-based venture development firm.

“This experience has given me a much greater appreciation of the needs of start-up firms and entrepreneurs, the extent of the details needed in business plans and financials, and a deep understanding of the operational expertise needed,” Mishra said. “I feel a sense of pride in having created a venture of enduring value that will address the pressing energy issues we face. And in that, I believe I have glimpsed what drives entrepreneurs through the grueling, yet strangely exhilarating and satisfying process of starting a company.”

Not only do these internships complement the students’ education at Kellogg, they also prepare them for their post-MBA careers. “In keeping with the spirit of experiential learning, there’s no better experience than sitting in the job,” says Clinical Professor of Technology James Conley, who worked with Sawhney and Career Management Center Director Roxanne Hori to direct the stipend program.

“Indeed, these internships provide that and allow students to determine if the context of the internship is what they want to do after graduation. What you get from your internship is a very rich, contextual environment that lets you see how what you learn in the first year is really applied in practice.”

Much like the school as a whole, the Center for Research in Technology & Innovation believes in taking care of its students. “In the Kellogg tradition,” Sawhney says, “we like to think of ourselves more as a family than an organization.”