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Monday, August 16, 2010 - Mentors enrich experience for CIBRE Summer Internship students

When Oakland University SBA students tackled projects this year for the CIBRE Summer Internship program, they knew they had someone in their corner, guiding them toward success.

A dozen members of the Rochester Hills' Older Persons Commission (OPC) -- all retired executives -- volunteered to work with OU students to share their business leadership experience. Through the collaborative learning program, students tackled business projects in small teams, with OPC members acting as mentors.


The mentors’ involvement represents a tremendous opportunity for students, says Rhonda Nelson, program and events department head, OPC. “Our seniors come with a lifetime of experience, knowledge and wisdom. As the students work on their projects, the seniors are there to support them.”


Since its launch last year, the CIBRE Summer Internship program has offered students real-world work experience while providing them a tuition stipend. Through their assigned project, students have access to business professionals, which helps them begin to form a professional network, and develop skills and knowledge to enhance their marketability.


Further, the summer internship program promotes integrative thinking – a foundation of the SBA -- by encouraging students to invest their diverse skills and backgrounds into their projects.


The SBA regularly looks for ways to support Michigan’s economic development through the CIBRE Summer Internship program. Many of this year’s projects met that objective. One team, for instance, worked with a tool and die company to implement lean practices the students learned during weekly workshops.


Another team, working with mentor Rick Fournier, explored ways colleges and universities can work collaboratively to meet the needs of the health care industry on behalf of OU’s School of Nursing (SON). “The idea was to create an information-sharing network,” Fournier says.

It was Fournier, with the OPC's Nelson, who approached the SBA about the possibility of expanding OU’s relationship with the OPC this year. Through a partnership with the OPC, the SBA at OU has provided guest speakers for OPC gatherings, and the OPC hosted two CIBRE Summer Internship students in 2009.


This year, the OPC suggested bringing the partnership to a new level. “I told Rhonda, maybe we could find a way to take some of the intellectual capital we have here to Oakland University,” says Fournier, who retired in August 2008 from a sales and marketing career in the automotive industry.


SBA's Dean Mohan Tanniru was receptive to the idea from the beginning, Fournier says. “He felt we could help students by asking them the right questions,” he says.


The situation is a win-win-win, Fournier says. It gives seniors a way to use their business skills; it helps student interns be more effective; and the partnership helps further and promote the CIBRE Summer Internship program.


“We’re not there to lead the team,” Fournier emphasizes. “We’re there in a supportive capacity. Our role is to ask questions. ‘Have you thought about this? How are you going to manage this project efficiently?’”


Nelson says she has been impressed with the CIBRE Summer Internship since she first saw it in action in 2009.


“It’s a phenomenal program,” she says. “The interns are bright students. They’re eager to get involved in the workplace and use the skills they’re gaining to help us with new ideas or help us with things we’ve not been able to do because of our busy workplace.


“There’s great potential to this program,” she adds. “Having mentors adds a richness.”


For more information about the CIBRE Summer Internship program, visit

By Flori Meeks