VCU undergraduate business student is energized by summer internship in Ohio
By Dina Weinstein
With a longstanding interest in business and leadership, Virginia Commonwealth University student Nana Appiah is making good use of her summer – and looking far beyond.
“My goal is to reach the unthinkable for myself and to encourage other people to have the same mindset,” she said.
Appiah, who grew up in Northern Virginia as the child of immigrants from Ghana, is interning as a business process analyst with Dominion Energy at the company’s offices in Akron, Ohio. The business management major is getting support from VCU’s Internship Funding Program, which in its second year has awarded nearly $300,000 in scholarships to help students with summer internships.
“It helps me navigate the city better and then also helps support my housing and transportation,” said Appiah, a rising senior in the School of Business whose studies include concentrations in international business and business marketing as well as communication analytics. The funding “lets me focus on the internship without having any financial stress or burdens.”
Dominion’s headquarters are in Richmond, just down the street from VCU, but Appiah sought an out-of-state internship as a means of personal growth and to learn more about the country.
“Being that my major is international business, although this isn’t essentially international, I think it gives you the right step ahead to travel and learn more about businesses,” said Appiah, who envisions a career as an analyst or consultant aiding companies big or small.
At Dominion this summer, she is examining established business processes.
“My job is to find ways to make these processes simpler, not only for myself but for supervisors and anyone who might need the data that I’m looking at,” Appiah said. “I’m in the process of learning how to use different software and kind of playing with it to create dashboards, reports and overall visuals to make everyone’s job a little easier.”
At VCU, Appiah is part of the Business Student Ambassadors organization, whose members lead tours and open houses. Through her service, she met VCU alumni who work in information technology at Dominion. She learned about its internship program through a presentation a company representative gave at a club meeting.
“From then on, they just became a familiar face at career fairs, and then I was given the opportunity through one of the people that did the presentations [who] encouraged me to apply for the Diversity Student Conference, which took place in October,” Appiah said. “If you’re accepted, you get to hear from women in minority groups that work at Dominion and their experience, because diversity, equity and inclusion is something that is one of the main pillars at Dominion. And from that conference, every attendee is guaranteed an interview for an intern position.”
Appiah credits VCU Career Services, her own networking and asking a lot of questions with helping her secure the internship.
“I made sure to prepare myself for the interview,” she said. “It was my first interview that I’ve done for a bigger internship like this, so that was very helpful.”
And she hopes it’s just the start with her employer: “I’m hoping to continue working at Dominion after graduation. I’m hoping to be someone who is of great help to the company and learn more about myself.”
That commitment to personal growth is something Appiah has looked to share on campus – she describes herself as having a creative personality, an innovator’s mindset and an interest in helping others.
To give students with a like-minded vision an outlet to support women from marginalized backgrounds, Appiah founded the Ohemmaa Palace Foundation, a nonprofit student organization. Ohemmaa is a Ghanaian term for queen, and the group has planned events around campus as well as volunteer opportunities to help the community and people abroad.
And for students looking for meaningful summer experiences, Appiah encourages them to explore the VCU Internship Funding Program and other campus resources.
“There’s systems in place to really help you succeed after college. Take full advantage of them and remember that the people that work at VCU are there to see you succeed,” she said. “Their job is to help. I advise people to not be afraid to ask for that help.”