Humboldt State University

Local Foundations Provide Eye-Opening Business Experiences for HSU Students

For years now, the Patricia D. & William B. Smullin Foundation and the McLean Foundation have supported HSU students seeking in-depth practical experience while benefiting local businesses in Humboldt County. Through the generosity of these local foundations, the HSU Business Internship program at HSU has propelled numerous students into meaningful careers.

One such student intern is Nick Goekler (’18, Business). Nick says that studying business and marketing in the classroom provided him a solid foundation, but it wasn’t until he worked with Humboldt Hot Sauce through the HSU School of Business Internship Program that his eyes were opened by the practical realities of how a small business is run.

The HSU School of Business Internship Program is supported by grants from the McLean and Smullin Foundations, which are used to pay student interns and cover administrative costs.

The program is the result of a community effort: Over 100 businesses, government agencies and non-profit organizations have collaborated with the HSU School of Business. Through this program, 272 HSU students have been awarded paid internships since its inception in 2012.

Though both foundations support the HSU School of Business Internship Program, The Smullin Foundation aims to connect students with businesses throughout Humboldt County and provides a $2,500 award in exchange for working 180 hours with a local business. The McLean Foundation focuses specifically on business internships in the Fortuna and Eel River Valley, and provides a $3,000 award to interns to help ease the costs of commuting from HSU.

Together, the foundations support local businesses by providing a qualified and dedicated intern, offering students meaningful real-world work experience and a chance to build their professional skills.

As a partner with the internship program, Humboldt Hot Sauce identified areas where the company could use Nick’s help, providing him the freedom to develop creative solutions. Nick was responsible for analyzing the company’s current marketing tools, assessing their strengths, and identifying areas for improvement. He also analyzed their use of social media and taught himself website design and coding to further develop the company’s online presence.    

“I was given the opportunity to improve website functionality and update images and content. I also created a ‘recipe of the month’ page to increase engagement with customers,” adds Nick.

“I knew I needed to get real world experience, and with Humboldt Hot Sauce, I did. I was placed in a position where I could think outside the box. I’m forever grateful to the Smullin and Mclean foundations for making this internship program possible for students like myself.”

Since 1990, the Patricia D. and William B. Smullin Foundation has sought to educate the people of Northern California and Southern Oregon through gifts to higher education, health services, food security, and housing. In 2012, the foundation began its partnership with the HSU School of Business to develop a paid internship program for Business majors.

Laura A. Olson, executive director of the Smullin Foundation, sums up the mutually beneficial exchange between the foundation, HSU, businesses, and students: “Students bring current knowledge and energy to local businesses and the program strengthens the relationship between the University and the business community. In addition, the students receive financial awards that acknowledge the value they bring and help ease their college expenses.”

Established in 1999, the Mel and Grace McLean Foundation has worked to award grants to nonprofits in Humboldt County for the purpose of supporting education, health and wellness, economic development, children, youth and senior programs, and art and culture. In 2015, the McLean Foundation added its support to the internship program, focusing on internships for businesses in Fortuna and the Eel River Valley.

“We hope that students who intern in the Eel River Valley will find relationship building skills and that the businesses they work with will receive benefits that go beyond what they might have been able to do alone. We value developing strong ties and a well-rounded experience for both the intern and the local businesses in our community,” explains Denise Marshall, executive director of the McLean Foundation.

Nick says he’s ready to pursue a career in business after gaining experience with Humboldt Hot Sauce. “I learned a lot about myself. I developed self-discipline and learned about the importance of communication across layers of business. Getting accepted into the HSU School of Business Internship program and interning with Humboldt Hot Sauce gave me a new sense of confidence.”

If you’d like to help support students and local businesses, you can make a direct contribution to the Smullin Undergraduate Business Internship or the McLean Internship Fund. Both funds support paid student internships in Humboldt County. If you have questions about giving, or would like to learn about other ways to support HSU students, visit loyalty.humboldt.edu, email the Office of Philanthropy at giving@humboldt.edu, or call 707-826-5200.