Department of Art and Design to launch new internship program with Nestlé Purina
Over the years, Scott Gericke has fielded many calls from companies and agencies in St. Louis looking for talented graphic design students to serve as creative industry interns.
Typically, Gericke, assistant teaching professor in the Department of Art and Design at the University Missouri–St. Louis, and his colleague Professor Jennifer McKnight discuss students who might be a good fit and encourage them to apply to the positions.
While those placements have been very successful, there hasn’t been a formal internship program in the department. However, that will soon change.
The Department of Art and Design is partnering with Checkmark, the in-house creative resource and agency of Nestlé Purina, to launch a new internship program this spring. Checkmark aims to have four interns participate in the first cohort – two during the 2023 spring semester and two during the summer intersession period. The program will be open to UMSL juniors and seniors in the graphic design program, and each student will receive a $5,000 scholarship for interning.
“Nestlé Purina wants to empower and prepare this next generation,” said Teresa Sausville, executive creative director at Checkmark. “We have a global work readiness initiative called Nestlé Needs You, so we’re really thinking about helping this next generation thrive and make an impact. It makes a lot of sense for the creative industry. So much of being successful in a creative industry is having that real-life experience.”
UMSL and Checkmark first began working on the partnership in February when Sausville contacted Gericke and McKnight about the possibility of an internship program. She knew the university’s graphic design program was well regarded and had also been impressed by UMSL graduates working at Checkmark. In the ensuing months, Gericke worked closely with University Advancement, Student Financial Services and Art and Design Department Chair Maureen Quigley to solidify the agreement.
“It’s a huge accomplishment,” Gericke said.
The program will expose UMSL students to professional spaces in the creative industry, as well as the protocols and expectations that come with them. It will also help them build their resumes as they approach graduation.
“One of our biggest goals is exposure – exposure, variety and real work,” Sausville said. “Through that, we hope that they will get a better sense of what the industry really is. Maybe it will help inform them when they’re looking for their first real job.”
She added that the internship is also intended to help students hone their craft. They’ll do that by contributing to Checkmark’s creative teams, which work on a variety of Purina verticals including dog food, cat food, treats and litter.
“These interns will be doing real work, working alongside our teams in client meetings,” Sausville said. “We work on pretty much all facets of marketing, promotion and advertising. We have social, digital advertising, traditional advertising, packaging, promotional and new product innovation. They will, in one way or another, get to be exposed to a pretty good range.”
Sausville said Checkmark is excited for the new partnership and the energy UMSL students will bring to the organization. Gericke is enthusiastic about it as well, adding that it’s just the beginning of a growing initiative.
“What’s nice about this is it’s going to open the door,” Gericke said. “We’re looking at developing a more robust internship program in our department.”
He said that will likely include a class devoted to internships and professional development. It would provide an opportunity for students who have completed internships to share what they’ve learned with their peers. A more formal internship program will also serve as a valuable recruiting tool.
In the future, the Department of Art and Design will pursue additional partnerships with other large companies in St. Louis with internal creative teams that could benefit from UMSL’s talented and diverse student body.
“We want it to be something that we can hang our hat on,” Gericke said. “I’ve already made a list of other companies that I’m going to reach out to after we get through this first wave.”
Gericke, McKnight and Elizabeth Buchta, assistant professor in graphic design, will begin accepting applications for the program in September, and they will vet candidates over the course of the fall semester.
“Purina is an awesome place to work,” Sausville said. “It’s an awesome environment, and I’m really proud of what we do at Checkmark. We are committed to making this a good experience and one with real experience. We are all passionate about the creative process and the creative craft. If that sounds like something that aligns with what you want, please apply.”
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