College of Business center focuses on connecting students with mentors, industry

November 4, 2020

The COB Internship and Career Management Center and the mentors met within it have a lasting legacy.

Michael Porter credits his successful business career — with roles like DTE vice president of corporate communications and The Stroh Brewery Company vice president of marketing  — to a connection he made at UM-Dearborn as a student.

Porter, ‘75 B.B.A.,recalls first stepping onto campus and meeting John Wessinger, who was head of the Internship Program at the College of Business. Porter says Wessinger’s fervent dedication at developing a widely respected internship program attracted him to campus. “UM-Dearborn students were recognized as mature, highly prepared and motivated.”

Photo of John Wessinger
Photo of John Wessinger
John Wessinger

And the experiences Porter gained from Wessinger’s connections and mentorship gave him the knowledge needed to transition from student to professional.

Through the program, Porter landed an internship at Ford Motor Company and says it opened doors for him. “Back then, Ford was still in the tractor business and I got an internship with them in the sales and marketing area and had a really wonderful experience. It certainly helped me when the time came to interview for jobs and gave me a leg up on the start of my career,” says Porter, who retired from DTE in 2011. 

Today the COB Internship and Career Management Center might look a little different — especially with its evolved name and virtual services — but it continues to serve the campus and community as a talent pipeline.

Interim Director Tuere Wheeler says its purpose remains focused on preparing business students for what’s next, and for cultivating relationships with industry. Prior to COVID, Wheeler traveled the country scouting out placement opportunities for students. She was in New York City last spring with COB faculty member Nick Vlisides to network with connections at Moody’s, Royal Bank of Canada and S&P 500. And in the remote-first world, she regularly meets with potential corporate partners via Zoom to create new experience pathways.

“The goal of the office has always been to help facilitate relationships between industry and our students. We feel that providing our students with access to experiential learning opportunities where they can practice and demonstrate what they are learning in the classroom, as well as develop networking and mentoring relationships, is key to their career development and success.”

Senior Faris Ajluni is one of the students who has benefited from these connections. The finance major attributes his previous roles at Ford Motor Company, Zeal Credit Union and with a tech startup to landing a risk management analyst internship last summer with S&P 500.

“S&P called me because of my internship experiences and leadership roles,” he says. “It’s important to look for opportunities and put yourself out there. Keep building your resume.”

And Wessinger, through a recent gift given by his wife Lelahni Wessinger (‘75 B.A., ‘83 M.A.), will continue to help students get connected to these needed experiences. The former COB faculty member, who passed away in 2010, had a scholarship established in his name to financially help students who may not otherwise be able to accept an internship. Hear Porter and Lelahni Wessinger discuss the scholarship.

When Porter reflects on his time at UM-Dearborn, he says internship opportunities were an important step in his success — as was Wessinger’s guidance. And that bond created at UM-Dearborn is something that’s always stayed with Porter.

“John had great passion for the students that he was mentoring and certainly I was a beneficiary of that,” says Porter, who has served as a COB mentor. “Business internships are a hugely valuable piece of the overall education and U-M Dearborn has an unparalleled history in terms of helping their students find valuable internships. John’s leadership helped countless numbers of young men and women find themselves professionally.”

In addition to the COB Internship and Management Center, UM-Dearborn also has resources and mentoring opportunities for all majors and alumni through Career Services and the Talent Gateway. If not ready to apply for a position yet, consider writing or updating the resume.

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