Department of Art and Design to launch new internship program with Nestlé Purina – UMSL Daily

Assistant Professor Scott Gericke (second from left) works with graphic design students in the print lab during the spring 2022 semester. The UMSL Department of Art and Design is partnering with Checkmark, Nestlé Purina’s creative resource and in-house agency, to launched a new internship program. Checkmark intends to hire four interns to participate in the first cohort – two during the spring 2023 semester and two during the summer intersession period. (Photo courtesy of Scott Gericke)

Over the years, Scott Gericke has fielded many calls from companies and agencies in St. Louis. Louis looking for talented graphic design students to serve as creative industry interns.

Typically, Gericke, assistant professor in the Department of Art and Design at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, and his colleague, Professor Jennifer McKnight, discuss students who may be a good fit and encourage them to apply for positions.

While those placements have been very successful, there has not been a formal internship program in the department. However, this will soon change.

The Art and Design Department is partnering with Checkmark, Nestlé Purina’s creative resource and in-house agency, to launch a new internship program this spring. Checkmark aims to have four interns participate in the first cohort – two during the spring 2023 semester and two during the summer intersession period. The program will be open to UMSL juniors and seniors in the graphic design program, and each student will receive a $5,000 internship stipend.

red poster with cat and dog in business clothes

Teaching Assistant Professor Scott Gericke, Professor Jennifer McKnight and Assistant Professor Elizabeth Buchta will begin accepting applications for the program in September. The program is open to juniors and seniors. (Poster courtesy of Scott Gericke)

“Nestlé Purina wants to empower and prepare this next generation,” said Teresa Sausville, executive creative director at Checkmark. “We have a global job readiness initiative called Nestlé Needs You, so we’re really thinking about helping this next generation thrive and make an impact. It makes a lot of sense for the creative industry. A lot of being successful in a creative industry is having that real-life experience.”

UMSL and Checkmark first began working in partnership in February when Sausville contacted Gericke and McKnight about the possibility of an internship program. She knew the university’s graphic design program was well regarded and had also been impressed by the UMSL graduates working at Checkmark. In the months that followed, Gericke worked closely with Chair of the Department of University Advancement, Student Financial Services and the Department of Art and Design Maureen Quigley to solidify the agreement.

“It’s a huge accomplishment,” Gericke said.

The program will expose UMSL students to professional spaces in the creative industry, as well as the protocols and expectations that come with them. It will also help them build their CVs as they approach graduation.

“One of our biggest goals is exposure — exposure, variety and real work,” Sausville said. “Through this, we hope they will have a better understanding of what the industry is really about. Maybe it will help inform them when they are looking for their first real job.”

She added that the internship also aims to help students develop their craft. They will do this by contributing to Checkmark’s creative teams, which work across a variety of Purina verticals including dog food, cat food, treats and litter.

“These interns will be doing real work, working alongside our teams on client meetings,” said Sausville. “We work on almost all aspects of marketing, promotion and advertising. We have social, digital, traditional advertising, packaging, promotion and new product innovation. They will, one way or another, be exposed to a pretty good range.”

Sausville said Checkmark is excited about the new partnership and the energy UMSL students will bring to the organization. Gericke is also enthusiastic about it, adding that it is just the beginning of a growing initiative.

“What’s nice about this is that it will open the door,” Gericke said. “We are looking at developing a more robust internship program in our department.”

He said this would likely include a classroom dedicated to practice and professional development. This would provide an opportunity for students who have completed the internship to share what they have learned with their peers. A more formal internship program will also serve as a valuable recruiting tool.

In the future, the Department of Art and Design will pursue additional partnerships with other major companies in St.

“We want it to be something we can hang our hat on,” Gericke said. “I’ve already made a list of other companies I’ll be contacting once we get through this first wave.”

Gericke, McKnight and Elizabeth Buchta, assistant professor of graphic design, will begin accepting applications for the program in September, and they will screen candidates during the fall semester.

“Purina is a great place to work,” Sausville said. “It’s a fantastic environment and I’m really proud of what we do at Checkmark. We are committed to making this a good and real experience. We are all passionate about the creative process and creative craft. If this sounds like something that matches what you want, please apply.”


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