The unique partnership with Abstrakt Marketing Group, a St. Louis-based agency, is an excellent example of how Maryville University partners with local, regional and global businesses and organizations to help students to gain professional experience even as they complete their degree programs. Maryville’s graduates are then able to step into jobs with the right skills and depth of knowledge to be productive from Day One.
Abstrakt, recently named one of the top 50 companies for revenue growth by the St. Louis Business Journal, operates a satellite office on campus, which creates unique internship opportunities for business and marketing students.
“No college has anything like this,” says Maryville alumnus Jason Bahnak, ’98, executive vice president of agency sales at Abstrakt. “It’s helped us identify good talent, so the students who succeed in the program are first in line to be hired here when they graduate.”
Students interning in Abstrakt’s collaborative college campus program earn a base pay, plus commission on sold contracts, while working up to 25 hours per week. At the conclusion of the program, students will have received their Abstrakt Sales Academy Certification, class credits, copies of all sales metrics, as well as recordings of live sales calls to show off their skills and professional experience to future employers.
“We have Maryville graduates working in our downtown office, and they are doing wonderfully,” says Bahnak. Andrew Mandziara, ’17, a recent graduate, closed a sale within two months of joining Abstrakt.
“It is not very common for this to happen so quickly, but what I have learned as an intern at Maryville is that you aren’t simply just making phone calls,” says Mandziara. “You are creating a scenario that can have a positive impact on people’s business and their lives.”
Maryville renovated space in the Anheuser-Busch Academic Center on campus to serve as a state-of-the-art office where students work directly with Abstrakt. They learn best practices in sales and marketing in an active business environment. The semester-long internships also give students the opportunity to apply coursework to actual sales interactions.
“This internship was extremely beneficial for me to land a full-time job at Abstrakt,” says Mandziara. “I am the first person to enter that company out of college into the executive sales department. The experience I obtained as an intern was the catalyst for my success.”
In the first semester, 17 students were selected for the part-time internship through a competitive interview process.
“For students now, it’s a life changer,” says Bahnak. “We are giving Maryville University students a huge tool. I’ve seen students with sales degree from all over the country and most know how to communicate, but don’t know the process of selling. Maryville students, though, already know what they are doing when they graduate.”
Abstrakt posted growth of 89.6 percent from 2014 to 2016. Bahnak says the company’s success is due to three main factors: culture of growth, great leadership and practicing what the company preaches.
“Scott Scully (CEO) is a phenomenal leader,” says Bahnak. “Everything we do is based on individual growth and we use the same things we sell, the growth process, to grow our company.”