Bellisario College student finds opportunity in virtual world

Jonathan F. McVerry
June 18, 2021

(Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of stories about Bellisario College students completing summer internships.)

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Many students are tired of a world of Zoom meetings and virtual workspaces. Eryn Werner doesn’t mind. In fact, she is taking full advantage of it.

Working virtually allowed Werner, a public relations major, to complete the past school year living with her parents in Switzerland. In May, she started a publication design and social media internship with Merck, a Fortune 500 multinational pharmaceutical company. The position lasts all summer and is completely virtual.

"I actually like the virtual atmosphere,” Werner said. “It provides me with a lot of flexibility and I still feel like I'm building valuable connections.”

"I’ve always liked Merck’s mission. What they do is really admirable.”

— Eryn Werner, public relations major

Werner saw the position among the many shared by Assistant Dean for Internships and Career Placement Bob Martin, who throughout the year sends regular emails to students in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications with available internships. The Merck position piqued Werner’s interest.

“I was in an internship frenzy, and I was reading every email,” she said. “I applied because I wanted to work for a bigger company, and I’ve always liked Merck’s mission. What they do is really admirable.”

According to Randi Smith-Billett, Merck's global social media manager, interns at Merck contribute. Werner will learn about how global campaigns are built, launched and measured. And even though the internship is virtual, she has big projects lined up this summer like planning a global social media campaign.

“Eryn is an incredibly self-motivated individual. She can pivot with ease, and she asks questions to obtain key information,” Smith-Billett said. “At the end of the summer, we hope each intern leaves feeling a sense of empowerment and has an understanding of Merck’s company culture and business.”

Merck’s internship program also pairs interns with mentors and sets up networking opportunities. If interns have an interest in other areas, the program will connect them with stakeholders in other departments to “add to their experience and knowledge,” Smith-Billett said.

Those opportunities are perfect for Werner whose interest in public relations and Penn State was driven by their broad offerings. Originally from Souderton, Pennsylvania, Werner’s parents moved to Switzerland shortly after she graduated high school.

"I wanted to go to a school where everyone loves their school.”

— Eryn Werner, public relations major

She applied to 10 colleges, but Penn State had the familiarity, size and opportunities she was seeking. Werner started her college career as a supply-chain management major but found a home in the Bellisario College.

“I feel like there's so many different pathways you can go with public relations,” she said. “You can do crisis communications, you can go to law school, you can get your MBA. Communications is a good tool to have.”

She added, “There are so many communities within Penn State. I like the community and the culture at Penn State. Plus, I wanted to go to a school where everyone loves their school.”

Merck is Werner’s fifth internship. The more recent positions — including one with a startup in Switzerland — center around social media. She said she likes finding new ways to engage a community through social media outlets. While working with Valley, a student-run lifestyle magazine, Werner made it a point to help the group’s LinkedIn page grow and be more engaging. It had not been a focus of the magazine and she saw potential.

“It’s fun to bring a brand voice into a new space that hasn't really been tapped into yet,” she said. “Engagement and awareness are key. You want to engage your community and have a conversation.”

For example, she said, “It's Pride Month. It would be silly, irresponsible really, to not post about it. You have to be aware of the social atmosphere and be a part of the community.”

Werner sees similarities between Penn State, a large, well-known university with passionate students and alumni, and Merck, a large, well-known company with committed employees working for the common good.

“A big company and a big school provide different resources and facets of conversation,” she said. “There's something really good about working with a lot of different people and hearing different ideas from people that come from different places. … That's how innovation happens.”

Last Updated June 18, 2021