Internships Build Tomorrow’s Workforce Leaders

Students from Ohio State Mansfield and North Central State College attend a Richland Area Chamber of Commerce event in the hopes of landing an internship with a local business.

The next time you are in a doctor’s office, Panera Bread, Pier 1 Imports, or an AMF bowling facility, check out the cabinets, counters and booth walls. They were likely made at Cooper Enterprises in Shelby. Monty Friebel ‘82 and his brother Edward are the third generation to have a hand in the family business, created by their grandfather in 1965.

The business has enjoyed success through the years, boasting resilience and financial strength even in a stagnant economy. But company leadership is aging, so to Friebel, it makes sense to invest in the Mansfield campus Business & Industry Internship Program.

“If I don’t bring in and start to develop young leaders today to become my leaders tomorrow, I’m going to be in trouble when everyone decides to retire,” Friebel said. “As my business grows, I need to identify leaders who are smarter and younger than us to help fill those leadership needs.”

The internship program got a jump-start this year as The Ohio State University at Mansfield and North Central State College joined forces to win a competitive grant in the JobReady Ohio program. The program grew from 6 students last year to 34 students in the summer and fall semesters as well as signing on 15 partner employers this year.

The grant reimburses private industry to offer paid internships to undergraduate students, according to Tracy Bond, internship program coordinator.

Bond helps students become “internship-ready” by offering classes in resume writing and career coaching, then matches them with prospective employers who will provide learning opportunities.

“It’s not as simple as ‘here’s a job, let me apply for the job, let me go work,’” Bond said. “Internships apply to the real world. They connect students’ studies with eventual careers.”

Friebel met Engineering major Brian Kurtz at a business luncheon at the Mansfield campus. Kurtz has since interned at Cooper Enterprises for two semesters. Another student, Business major Tom Boggs, interned over the summer.

Regardless of the internship, Friebel places the interns on the shop floor for the first couple of weeks.

“We want them to understand the culture of the business, understand our processes and operations, the parts and products that we are making, materials that we are using, so when Brian begins to make drawings, he will understand what he is drawing, and so Tom will understand the materials better for product identification,” Friebel said.

An endowment was established during the But for Ohio State Mansfield campaign to continue to fund internship opportunities. Although Friebel self-funds his internship positions, he hopes other employers will provide opportunities for students through the endowment.

“I see it as giving back,” Friebel said. “This is part of economic development. If we can start developing leaders and show them where there’s opportunities here in our local community, and they stay in the community, it’s wonderful.”

But For Ohio State Mansfield: Dan Freund

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At The Ohio State University at Mansfield, Dan Freund began a journey from the mold of a Midwestern factory family, to a first generation college student, to leading the transformation of his home school district. It was the mid-1960s and Dan Freund had just graduated. “I really didn’t see myself going to college when I graduated from high school. I was 17 years old, I was not really thinking college was for me,” But something changed his course.

“We had one building. It was brand new. It was Ovalwood,” reminisces Freund. The campus featured a dirt road entrance that “you needed a four wheel drive vehicle to get in and out of,” he chuckles and adds, “But again, it was brand new in 1966.”

Along with fresh bricks and mortar, Freund noted that attitude of students and faculty was something special. “There was a really great sense of excitement.” Freund noted. “We got to know each other quickly and formed friendships. We felt like we were part of something.” Freund found a foothold in those fresh beginnings that became foundational to his collegiate career.

“It was really great to have the Mansfield campus, because I could live at home, and because my family didn’t have a whole lot of money, it helped out considerably from an economic standpoint. It was very convenient for me and the high quality of teaching was pretty impressive.” As he attended class, bonds began to form and he found a home in his local campus. “You know, I still remember the names of my teachers, and they had a powerful impact on my life.” The first step in his educational journey had not taken him far from home. The next step would take him 70 miles south.

He moved to The Ohio State University’s Columbus campus and found yet another home. He enjoyed classes there, meeting new friends and professors, and before long he found himself graduating with a Bachelor’s degree. He was not quite finished, however, and returned to complete a Master’s degree in Education from Ohio State.

His professional career has taken him through local schools, first as a grad school special needs teacher, a full-time middle school teacher, a member of local administrations, and finally, as a superintendent of Mansfield City Schools.

In his superintendent post, he has been a catalyst for community change and has received high marks from several community members. At a recent school board meeting, Cheryl Carter, director of North Central State College’s Urban Center, remarked “Students have a great advocate in Dan Freund. Behind every decision he makes is the thought: Is this best for our students? I know that the vision Dan has for this district is spot on.”

Freund has also led Mansfield City Schools in forging a remarkable partnership with The Ohio State University at Mansfield. The schools have enjoyed collaboration on the Algebra Project for a number of years and now look to expand efforts into scholarship programs. As part of Ohio State Mansfield’s But For Ohio State Mansfield capital campaign, the campus is working with Freund to establish the Tyger Scholarship Fund. Designed to raise aspirations for higher education, at least twenty percent of Mansfield Senior High School graduates are expected to receive support from this new scholarship, with plans in place to expand this opportunity to even more students through ongoing collaborations with Mansfield City School District alumni. “Superintendent Freund is the ideal partner in an initiative such as this,” notes Dr. Stephen Gavazzi, dean and director of The Ohio State University at Mansfield, “He brings real world experience and an openness to new ideas that set the stage for some truly transformative work to be done.”

Asked what he plans for the future, Freund stated simply, “We really want our kids to understand that there are no limitations in terms of their futures. If they have the will to succeed there are adults in their community working hard on their behalf so that their dreams can become real.”

As his remarkable career continues, Dan Freund dares students to dream, and begin a new educational journey. In doing so, they will be following a course that has been both walked and prepared by their superintendent.

But for Ohio State Mansfield: Mike LaCroix

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What started out as a journey of uncertainty for Mike LaCroix has turned into something truly special: serving as the Coordinator of Athletics and Recreation at The Ohio State University at Mansfield.

The Plymouth native knew that going to college was a necessity, so he enrolled in classes at OSU Mansfield to pursue a bachelor’s degree. He chose OSU Mansfield because it was close to home and he would have the support of friends and family while adjusting to the demands of college.

Like many incoming students, Mike wondered what there was to do. He soon discovered “games to attend, events to go to,” and numerous organizations and clubs to join. OSU Mansfield is also a prime location for many kinds of recreation, from skiing at Snow Trails to jumping out of airplanes with the skydiving club. Mike immediately joined the Mansfield Mavericks basketball team and helped out with freshmen orientation on behalf of the Campus Recreation Center. Sports are a big part of his life, and OSU Mansfield gave him the opportunity to live his dream of playing college basketball.

When asked about his favorite memory at OSU Mansfield, Mike declared without hesitation, “Playing basketball. Not so much the game, but the van trips to and from games. Fit twelve guys into an eleven-passenger van, and the conversations that come up are off the wall. Win or lose, that is my biggest memory from being a student.” Mike’s basketball team left a lasting impression on him, and he will always be thankful to OSU Mansfield for that.

In addition to extracurricular activities, OSU Mansfield encourages students to earn credit by completing internships. Mike gained real world work experience by interning at Plymouth High School. He dedicated over sixty hours working at numerous athletic events and has exemplified what it means to be an Ohio State Buckeye as a member of the local community.

By attending OSU Mansfield, Mike said he was able to “get a job as a student worker, find a major that suited me, develop the skills necessary to be selected as the new Coordinator, and meet my future wife, all because of the decision I made to play basketball for the Mavericks.”

Mike was unsure what he wanted to major in until his junior year when an OSU Mansfield staff member suggested he look into sports management. Mike took advantage of what OSU Mansfield offers in order to achieve his goals. The Ohio State University not only gave him the tools he needed, but also a professional opportunity to get his career started.

Being employed as the new Coordinator of Athletics and Recreation at OSU Mansfield means a lot to Mike because he has the best of both worlds; he gets to be close to his family while working at a nationally recognized university. Mike enjoys his time working with students and members of the Mansfield community through non-credit programs offered at the campus recreation center. OSU Mansfield not only gave Mike a launching pad for his future; OSU Mansfield employees also gave him advice and guided him in the right direction.

Mike’s advice to anyone who is contemplating getting their education at Ohio State Mansfield would be to absolutely go for it: it’s affordable, and it has a national reputation. OSU Mansfield is less expensive than Columbus, while offering smaller classes and more opportunities for one-on-one teaching. Mike believes the small campus atmosphere provides a better learning environment for students. He explains, “You don’t feel overwhelmed; you don’t feel like a number. At OSU Mansfield, when you have a question, you are not talking to a teaching assistant; you are speaking directly to a professor. You are able to focus more here, and there is much more of a support group.”

But for Ohio State Mansfield, Mike LaCroix would not have received the support, direction, and opportunity that landed him in Sports Management.