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PROFILE: Student Pilots First International Co-op With Delta

Business student Shelby Shenkelman is flying high thanks to cooperative education. In summer 2003, she got to meet the likes of tennis great Todd Martin because of a co-op with the ATP. And during her most recent co-op in early 2004 with Delta, she convinced the company that they should participate in UC’s International Co-op Program. That means in early 2005, Shelby will co-op abroad.

Date: 5/10/2004 8:00:00 AM
By: Mary Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: Dottie Stover
UC ingot University of Cincinnati pre-junior Shelby Shenkelman, 21, of University Heights near Cleveland, is used to winging her way through challenges. 

She’s tackled living abroad with a new language while in Madrid.  She carries a double major – operations management/international business and Spanish.  She’s met and worked with tennis greats while co-opping with the Association for Tennis Professionals.  And more recently, she capped her winter-quarter co-op with Delta Air Lines, Inc., by convincing the company to participate in UC’s International Co-op Program.  (Co-op refers to the practice, which had its worldwide founding at UC in 1906, wherein students alternate academic quarters spent in the classroom with paid, professional work directly related to their major.)  The International Co-op Program began at UC in 1990 and allows students to work, learn and earn in Europe, South America and Asia. 

But Delta had never been an ICP employer, that is until Shelby came along.  “Working for Delta in Atlanta was such a perfect fit for me, and I wanted to stay with the company for my next co-ops,” Shelby explains.  “But I also wanted to work overseas.  I’m especially interested in working in Latin America where I can use my Spanish.”

Shelby just happened to mention her dilemma to one of her supervisors, and while she was talking, she got an idea.  She’d propose that Delta join UC’s International Co-op Program and volunteer to be the “guinea student,” so to speak.  Shelby wrote her proposal and, with the help of her Delta supervisor and Gayle Elliott, head of UC’s ICP, put together a presentation  emphasizing the advantages for Delta and for UC students.

“I was petrified to make the presentation to some of the brass at Delta at the end of March,” Shelby confesses.  “I mean, here I am, I’ve been co-opping with the company for three months.  At first, it seemed I could barely find the bathroom or the elevator, and now, I’m the one responsible for convincing them to come in to international co-op.  It was all on my shoulders, and it was my only chance.  I couldn’t help thinking, ‘I’m just a co-op.'  But then I realized they weren’t treating me like 'just a co-op.'  I was given so much work and responsibility.  So, I just modeled my presentation on the values, practices and phrasing I’d noticed my boss using, and it worked.”

Shelby says she emphasized that participation would constitute a low-cost, low-risk venture for Delta, with the chance for high-flying payoffs in terms of certain projects.  “They have hubs and service centers all over the world, so their participation could really expand options for UC students, too,” Shelby adds.  “It was just the best feeling when the executive I was presenting to said, ‘Yes, we’ll make it happen,’ and my boss had a smile all over her face.”

That means in early 2005, Shelby will be co-opping in either Paris, France; Bombay, India, or in Latin America.  “I’m happy with any location but I’d probably prefer Latin America to use my Spanish,” she says.  Actually, where she winds up is, to some degree, up to Shelby.  She’s devising executive proposals examining her possible role in each location, and from those proposals will come the decision as to where she’ll fly to.

Wherever she goes and what ever her final responsibilities, Shelby figures to expand her world.  “Just going to Atlanta was a little intimidating.  There are about 35,000 Delta employees there.  The screening process for a co-op with them is rigorous.  I have to say that I was a little nervous just to go and co-op with them and have to prove myself.  But in the end when I was leaving to come back to school, I got hugs from my co-workers.  They’d opened up their homes to me, fed me home-cooked meals, took me to a hockey game and so many other things.  I feel like I’ve really lucked out.”

Well, if so, it’s luck she created herself.

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