Day one of Rachel Graper’s internship at Del Monte Foods was a whirlwind. By 8:15 a.m., she had already met her director, team members and internship mentor, Gabriel Nul (Tepper MBA 2005). The rest of the day included a fast-paced schedule including a HQ tour, human resources orientation, internal team meetings and hours of reading marketing plans and P&L statements.
Warp speed is the norm for Graper, an assistant brand manager intern at Del Monte Foods, a new position created as part of the Tepper MBA program’s James R. Swartz Entrepreneurial Fellows Program. Although the training is aligned with a corporate environment, the internship is focused on honing the business development skills this future entrepreneur will need to succeed at launching and sustaining a venture.
“I managed five projects at once during the internship,” says Graper, who was selected as one of 20 Tepper MBA Swartz Fellows in 2007. “The most significant was developing a marketing program for the company’s premium pet food, educating consumers about responsible pet ownership.”
In its second year, the Swartz Entrepreneurial Fellows Program has become the centerpiece of Tepper’s MBA Entrepreneurship Track. Made possible by a generous gift from venture capitalist and alumni James R. Swartz (MBA 1966), co-founder of the global venture capital firm Accel Partners, the program adds a unique component to Tepper’s top-ranked entrepreneurship curriculum—mentorship.
Throughout their summer internships, Swartz Fellows receive intensive mentoring by Tepper faculty, a Tepper alumnus and a high-level company executive. “I worked alongside a number of incredibly talented mentors at Del Monte,” says Graper. “They were all vital players in my experience there, adding a depth that I couldn't have achieved on my own.”
“We teach entrepreneurship at a high level, but there’s no substitute for embedded in it to really learn the principles,” says Art Boni, John R. Thorne Chair of Entrepreneurship at the Tepper School. “The Swartz Fellows program gives students the opportunity to learn from people who have been there and been extremely successful. Access to this depth of experience will be one facet that takes students’ careers to the next level.”
In addition to Del Monte, Tepper Swartz Fellows received mentor-specific internships at Heinz, Intel, IBM Extreme Blue, Amgen, Amazon, Avaya, McKinsey, Booz Allen Hamilton, Nano-Lambda, Fast-Cat, Eivod, Johnson & Johnson, National Robotics Engineering Center, and the Strategic Business Initiatives unit of the UPMC Health System, corporations that partner with the Tepper School’s Career Opportunities Center.
“My internship at Del Monte was a tremendous opportunity as an entrepreneur since I plan to start my own firm within the food and beverage industry,” says Graper. “The Swartz program enabled me to design an experience that fit my goals and objectives perfectly, and that flexibility is precisely what makes Tepper’s Entrepreneurship Track so valuable. Plus, seeing how my efforts impacted a product found on store shelves nationwide has been fantastic.”