Closing the export knowledge gap

Joyce Steffan
Director, Global Business Initiatives with Fisher College of Business

Share this article

Students in the Ohio Export Internship Program are driving serious business for Ohio companies. Director Joyce Steffan discusses how these interns are generating millions in export sales.

How did 60 Ohio undergraduate students generate more than $11 million in increased export sales for a group of small- to medium-sized Ohio companies? The answer: internships with a twist.

Three years ago, Fisher partnered with the Ohio Development Services Agency to create the Ohio Export Internship Program (EIP). The idea was simple – teach students how to export through detailed classroom instruction, then put them to work for 12 weeks and watch them drive new business for Ohio companies. 

Considering 90 percent of the world’s purchasing power lies outside of the United States, it made perfect sense not only to build students’ global business competencies, but also help companies in the Buckeye State expand their market potential.

Exporters in training

Enter the EIP interns – highly motivated, well-trained students from Ohio State and seven partner universities across Ohio. Since its creation, the program has grown from nine students in 2012 to 44 students in the current cohort. Overall, 103 students have graduated from or are participating in EIP. 

These students enroll in a spring semester course that focuses on developing their export knowledge and establishing a network of export-related professionals on whom they can call with questions. Then, each student is matched with a company for a paid summer internship in industries ranging from selling fire trucks in China to producing specialty candles for the U.K.

When it comes time to begin their internships, students’ responsibilities vary based on the needs of the companies, but they often have a significant impact on the bottom line. 

Success stories

Abbie Vaculik, a third-year business student at Ohio State and 2014 EIP participant, interned with E. L. Hatton Sales, a company in Wellington that sources industrial textiles. During her internship, Abbie succeeded in establishing two new distributorships in the European market. Her experience, like other students, helped influence her future career choice. 

“EIP has ignited my passion for international business,” she said. More good news: She is still working part-time as an intern with E. L. Hatton and has been offered a full-time position upon graduation.

Internship experiences also have presented students with an opportunity to travel across the United States and abroad. 

Dominic DiCamillo, also a third-year business student at Ohio State, flew to Managua, Nicaragua, in order to test a controller system he helped program and translate into Spanish for his company, Ashland-based Rain Drop Products, which offers a full line of water play equipment. Dominic is currently employed as a Global Peer Advisor through Fisher’s Office of Global Business and is a Food Export Intern with the Ohio Development Services Agency.

In total, 18 students have received internship extensions, four have traveled internationally as part of their internship and eight have received full-time job offers.

A well-trained workforce

As in any business, the survival of EIP depends on companies seeing its value – in this case, the value of having a trained export intern. 

Director Kerry Brown of Elmer’s Products, an adhesive solutions company based in Westerville, can attest to the value of EIP after creating a full-time export position that had not previously existed in the Elmer’s organization. 

“If you’re like us, maybe you don’t have a whole team that is dedicated full time to exporting,” Brown said. “So bringing in a summer intern, especially one who has been trained through this program, was really valuable.”

This year’s EIP cohort is undoubtedly the most diverse and competitive to date. 

Institutions such as Bowling Green State University, the University of Dayton, Ohio Wesleyan University, Tiffin University, Wittenberg University and Wright State University are all sending their students to Ohio State’s Columbus campus to join Buckeye students in the classroom. And, in a newly designed partnership this year, nine students are taking EIP classes at Youngstown State University. 

The current class also includes 10 international students from countries across the world, including China, India and Syria, bringing perspectives, skills and experiences that will surely benefit their internship companies.

Ultimately, the impact of this program is a win-win-win for the students, for the companies and for the state of Ohio. As the Ohio Export Internship Program continues to grow through additional university partners and companies, the goal to create jobs through a well-trained workforce and serve as a leader in economic development is certain to happen.

About the author

Joyce Steffan
Joyce Steffan -
Director, Global Business Initiatives with Fisher College of Business

Joyce Steffan, director of global business initiatives in the Office of Global Business at Fisher College of Business, leads experiential and project-based learning initiatives. She also directs the Ohio Export Internship Program and administers a federal grant for the Center for International Business Education that focuses on expanding global expertise to students, faculty and the business community across Ohio.


Buckeye Voices — Commentary from The Ohio State University