Posted: Friday Feb 3, 2012
February 3, 2012
Courtney Briggs of Latrobe, a senior Business Management major at Saint Vincent College, is the first student in the United States to complete an internship with Kennametal Inc. in Shanghai, China.
“It was the best experience of my life,” Ms. Briggs commented on her four-month experience in China because of her internship and studies at the University of Shanghai. During her fall semester she was a participant in Saint Vincent College’s study abroad program. “I learned so much about China’s business operations, culture and work ethic but never did I imagine that I would leave my voice behind in a video that will be shown to visitors at Kennametal plants throughout Asia!”
Ms. Briggs’ excitement about her experience has led to a desire to return to Shanghai – or perhaps Hong Kong after she graduates to obtain more global experience.
The ambitious and ever-smiling Ms. Briggs, who is also pursuing a minor in the emerging field of Operational Excellence, was encouraged by her academic advisor at Saint Vincent, Dr. Richard Kunkle, to pursue an internship while she was in China. “Since world business is booming in China, I knew that would be the perfect place to do my third internship.” She previously completed internships with Fastenal as a sales support intern in Greensburg and PNC Bank headquarters as an operations intern in Pittsburgh.
“I researched the major corporations in Shanghai and discovered that locally-headquartered Kennametal had operations there,” she recalled. “When I applied and was hired, I didn’t know the distance from my university. I later found out that it was nearly two hours away and I was able to get there by metro and taxi. They had never had an intern before from Latrobe or even from the United States.” Kennametal is global supplier of innovative custom and standard wear resistant solutions to customers in earthworks, transportation, aerospace and defense, energy and general engineering markets, and is a world leader in its industry.
Her main supervisor, Xiao Liu at Kennametal’s Customer Solution Center in Shanghai, who worked in Operational Excellence, gave her an opportunity to gain experience in other departments including marketing, communications, finance and human resources. “One of the most exciting projects I worked on was a safety video that anyone who visits a Kennametal plant is required to watch,” she explained. “Because they wanted an English narration with a typical American accent, I was asked to make the recording after I had visited the Kennametal/Sintec Plant in FengXian and observe everything they did there. The video will be used throughout Asia.”
Ms. Briggs, who has a Yellow Belt in Six Sigma that she earned at PNC Bank, completed Green Belt training at Kennametal. She worked with human resources and went through the processes used for new hires and made suggestions for their action plan for the future. She had an opportunity to write articles for their newsletter, website and internal communication. “The most important thing I learned was how different it is working for a major corporation in another country,” she noted.
Having studied the Chinese language for four semesters at Saint Vincent, she felt well prepared to live in China for an extended period. “But, I learned a lot about Chinese people, their culture and how they treat one another. It also expanded my knowledge of the business world globally.”
“When I arrived in Shanghai, Kennametal was completing a major renovation project at their facility,” Ms. Briggs recalled. “I was fortunate enough to attend a grand re-opening celebration on October 18 that included distributors, key customers, government officials, people from the press, and Kennametal employees including Kennametal chairman, President and Chief Executive Office Carlos Cardoso from Latrobe.”
“I am so grateful to Kennametal for giving me the independence to do value-added work,” she added. “They trusted me with assignments as if I were a regular employee.”
Ms. Briggs’ study abroad at the University of Shanghai was arranged by Saint Vincent through the United States Abroad Consortium (USAC) based at the University of Nevada at Reno. “Our dormitories were located on campus in downtown Shanghai which was a great location,” she noted. “They also planned field trips to many cities including Xian (home of the terra cotta warriors), Beijing (where she was joined for a brief visit with her mother), Hangzhou, Hong Kong, Suzhou, Macau, Nanjing, and other fascinating places.”
In addition to her internship and travel, she was also enrolled in four courses taught in English by Chinese professors. They included Chinese Business Issues and Practices, Ancient Chinese History, Global Marketing and Government and Politics in China. “I enjoyed the classes because they included field trips to historic locations, group collaborative work, but some of the classes were three-hours in length,” she noted. “Thirty students were enrolled in the program so some classes only had six or seven students. There were other programs that were also housed in the same residence hall so I made friends with students from all over the world.” Being encouraged by her friends to try unusual foods she tasted donkey, guinea pig, scorpion, and rattlesnake.
She credits the Study Abroad Office at Saint Vincent with making her experience a success. “Director Bessy Bennellick assisted me so much,” she said. “She helped me select the perfect place and prepare me in many ways before I left and was in communication while I was there. She was really knowledgeable and valuable in her support.”
She plans to do a fourth internship this summer with PNC Bank in Treasury Management. A senior who will be graduating early after 3 ½ years of study in December 2012, she will earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Management with a minor in Operational Excellence.
A 2009 graduate of Greater Latrobe High School, she said she chose Saint Vincent College because she was interested in the business program, enjoyed the campus tour and wanted to go to a college where she would be treated as a person, not a number. “Going to Saint Vincent was the best decision of my life because of how far it has gotten me. All of my employers have been impressed with my preparation,” she related. “I feel like I’m going to have a really good career because of Saint Vincent.”
At Saint Vincent, she is one of the founders and Treasurer of the Operational Excellence Club, a member of the Marketing Matrix which she also served as community service director, a staff writer for the Review student newspaper, a member of the Women in Business Club, a volunteer note taker, and a work/study student assistant in the Mailing and Duplicating Department. She has participated in the March for Life in Washington, D.C. and Campus Ministry activities on campus. She is a member of Saint Mary’s Byzantine Catholic Church in Bradenville.
A member of the Dean’s List, Ms. Briggs has been honored by Who’s Who among Students. She has been awarded academic and leadership scholarships by Saint Vincent and the First Catholic Slovak Union.
She is the daughter of Tami Ridilla Briggs of Latrobe and Paul Briggs of Spring Grove, Illinois.
Photo: Courtney Briggs at the Great Wall in Beijing.