Victor Mullins, associate dean of the undergraduate program at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business, recently asked Katherine Brzozowski ’19 to share her unique experience during this past summer. Katherine’s “Summer Story of “WOW”" is part of her Smith journey and it may be an inspiration to others. It may also be the beginning of what will distinguish her during networking opportunities and job interviews. Katherine is double majoring in marketing and journalism.
Dean Mullins: Tell us what you did this summer?
Katherine: I worked as a marketing intern at Consult Your Community (CYC) for its national executive board. CYC is a non-profit composed of 15 chapters that extends its reach all over the United States. Student business analysts at each chapter are empowered by CYC to provide pro bono consulting services to small businesses in the communities surrounding their college or university. These are small businesses that would not ordinarily have the financial means to contract those services, so that is why each of CYC’s business analysts serve as such powerful tools in supporting their local economies. My role in the organization this summer was helping to build out CYC’s brand and get a better understanding of the stakeholders in the organization, so that nationals could better communicate its value to them.
Dean Mullins: What were the highlights of your experience?
Katherine: I was fortunate to have been able to work closely with CEO Kiron Chandy, and COO Thomas Flynn, who pushed me to try on a number of roles within the organization. With hard work, I was able to see my projects make a tangible impact on the organization. Perhaps one of my favorite projects this summer was working on CYC’s podcast, Community Voice. This project pushed me to reach out, ask questions and make connections that I never thought I’d make. What began in June as a role helping to edit audio for each episode, evolved into becoming a voice on the podcasts themselves, and taking on the role as a curator of future content this fall.
While working on a social media audit of CYC’s online presence in parallel with this project, I saw listenership of Community Voice jump from a few hundred people, to over seven thousand people. This was a defining moment in my summer experience. It was thrilling to see how quickly we were growing as an organization. As I take on the role of a marketing strategist at CYC this fall, our marketing team hopes to achieve the goal of more than doubling our followers across all of our social media channels.
Dean Mullins: How/when/why did you plan this experience?
Katherine: Because I have such a unique major combination – Marketing and Journalism - I found myself having trouble pinpointing the trajectory of my professional development. Last spring, I decided to start reaching out to professionals on LinkedIn with careers that interested me, and asking them to hop on a phone call to talk about how they navigated their own career paths. While working as a business analyst for CYC’s University of Maryland chapter, I connected with their CEO Kiron Chandy who also works as a consultant at PwC and a blogger for The Huffington Post. I ended up talking to her on the phone for over an hour about my interests in marketing and my passion for media before she invited me to work with CYC in a role that combined my unique interests. Within a week of that call, I took on a role in the organization that would grow into the summer and easily became one of the greatest learning experiences of my college career.
Dean Mullins: Has this experience helped you to clarify your professional and/or personal goal(s)?
Katherine: My experience at CYC helped me clarify what interests me most about a career at the intersection of marketing and journalism. As a marketer, I enjoyed the challenge that came with empathizing with each of our unique stakeholders and working to communicate CYC’s unique value to them. But my experience also helped me find a way to combine those interests with my passion for journalism through communicating by story-telling. What made my experience powerful was that I was able to use my diverse major set to amplify the mission of the organization to the broader community, and at the same time, tell genuine stories that would otherwise be unheard. As a member of the Smith School’s Strategic Design and Innovation Fellows, I am hoping to learn more creative ways for me to tell those stories this fall.
Dean Mullins: Tell us how your “Summer of “WOW” experience will help you continue along the Smith Freshmen: “Build Your Brand;” Sophomores: “Pioneer Your Path;” Juniors: “Command Your Career;” Seniors: “Embrace Your Experience.”
Katherine: My time with CYC has helped me “Command My Career” through my exposure to different lenses within a business. By splitting my time between marketing and operations, I had a better understanding of what I wanted out of a career down the line. When working on operations projects, my focus was making sure that student voices were being represented on the national level and that we were doing our best to equip our members with the tools and skills they needed to best serve business owners. Although this work was important to me, I found that I enjoyed marketing projects more, where we looked at how students interacted with CYC’s brand. Reaching out to Kiron helped me find my ‘why?’ and exploring those different roles within CYC helped me refine my career search going into my junior year. I hope that my story encourages students to reach out to professionals and ask questions that will give them a better understanding of what they want from their own careers.
Dean Mullins: What advice would you give to your fellow Smith peers and community?
Katherine: Understand the “Necessity of Strangers” [the name of a book by Alan Gregerman that we were assigned to read in freshman year]. I wouldn’t have had this opportunity unless I had reached out to people who interested me. By having the humility to know that you’re not the smartest person in the room and always asking questions, you will find yourself connecting with people who share your interests and from whom you can learn. Challenging yourself to do this will also bring you closer to people who have different perspectives than you—something that will be often asked of Smith students in the workplace.
Dean Mullins: What is your dream?
Katherine: My dream is to live and work as a brand strategist in New York City upon graduation. I want to work in a space where I can channel my creative energy to understand and change the way people perceive brands. At the same time, I hope to pursue my wild personal dreams to visit all of the National Parks in the U.S. and surf in some of the best spots in the world!
Dean Mullins: Why are you passionate about the Smith School?
Katherine: Smith is home to one of the most unique cultures I have found at the University of Maryland. I find that Smith students are constantly challenging themselves to learn and grow and do, but in a way where they can each be unapologetically themselves. I am proud to be a part of such a powerful community of thought leaders, and I am humbled to be able to call upon that network for the rest of my life.
Successful navigation of the SMITH JOURNEY requires involvement with colleagues, professors, professionals, clubs and organizations here at the Smith School, across campus and in the outside “real” world of business. Here is what students are challenged to do in each of their four years at Smith:
Freshmen: “Build Your Brand” through the SmithStart program.
Sophomores: “Pioneer Your Path” to success by focusing on an overall academic and career strategy.
Juniors:“Command Your Career” to ensure that you are well positioned for your professional journey.
Seniors: “Embrace Your Experience” with an arsenal of tools, knowledge, and networks, so that you are able to embrace your experience and celebrate your success
For more information about the undergraduate program at Smith, visit: www.rhsmith.umd.edu/undergrad.