ENtern program provides startup experience to entrepreneurship students

Samantha Chavanic
December 08, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Though businesses differ in product and service offerings, structure, missions and goals, behind every startup is an entrepreneur with the drive and determination to create a solution to a problem. A new entrepreneurship internship program will provide students in the technology-based cluster of the intercollege minor in entrepreneurship and innovation (ENTI) with the opportunity to experience how local entrepreneurs harness this drive and determination to build their companies.

Home to the technology-based cluster, the engineering entrepreneurship program (E-SHIP) is housed within the College of Engineering’s School of Engineering Design, Technology, and Professional Programs.

Created through a partnership between E-SHIP and Happy Valley LaunchBox powered by PNC Bank, the entrepreneurship internship (ENtern) program pairs technology-based cluster students with startup companies currently participating in Happy Valley LaunchBox’s FastTrack Accelerator or Invent Penn State’s Summer Founders program.

Through their internships, ENterns are directly exposed to the entrepreneurship world and can explore their entrepreneurship interests and the startup culture. They gain real-world experience as an employee of an early-stage venture, building their resumes and potentially identifying employment opportunities in the Centre Region, according to Ted Graef, director of E-SHIP. 

The program provides local startups with access to a pipeline of Penn State entrepreneurship talent, helping to accelerate their businesses and potentially identifying future employees and team members, Graef said.

“We wanted to create this opportunity to provide students with experience in an actual startup, as well as help startups reach their goals,” Graef said. “The ENtern program helps the startup find a student and then covers the student’s cost for the first 150 hours that they provide to the startups. The ENtern benefits because they get that real-world experience.”

Selected ENterns receive a $1,500 stipend, provided by E-SHIP, and work 150 hours throughout one semester, clocking no more than 20 hours in a one-week pay period. 

Lee Erickson, chief amplifier at Happy Valley Launchbox, identifies local, eligible startup companies with a need and the structure to support ENterns. She requests job descriptions from the startup founders and distributes those to the technology-based cluster students. Startups complete the internship interviewing and selection process.

Inaugural ENterns Jeanette Debek, junior public relations student, and Khaled Khalil, fourth-year architectural engineering student, were matched with Gage Ventures and Xora for summer 2020 internships, respectively.

“This program was a very tangible entrepreneurship experience,” Debek said. “In school and society right now, entrepreneurship is very glorified, and it is hard to grasp the idea of the work that goes into entrepreneurship without being thrown into an entrepreneurship endeavor. This program was a great way to make connections and gain confidence in your abilities.”

Khalil echoed the benefits of being immersed in the startup culture.

“The experience teaches you about your limits as an entrepreneur and gives you a somewhat raw and realistic experience of entrepreneurship that you will often never receive from reading about it in class,” he said.

Startup founders interested in becoming involved with the ENtern program should contact Graef at tedgraef@psu.edu.


(Media Contacts)

Last Updated December 10, 2020