Aroosa Ajani ’18 had her sights set on being an urban planner. Her coursework had taught her to analyze large data sets, perform complicated analyses, and make significant recommendations for improvements, but most importantly, it had challenged her toward one fundamental narrative: How can we use data to help us make better decisions?
Little did Ajani know, it was exactly this type of question that would land her a coveted internship at Dell Technologies—one reserved specifically for students like her.
For the past five years, Trinity and Dell have partnered to place deserving Tigers in summer internships with the multinational technology company. The University has been named a core school for recruiting interns and employees into Dell’s supply chain operations, and while a natural pipeline for this talent may seemingly come solely from the School of Business, Dell interns-turned-full-time-employees have come from majors as various as engineering science, finance, mathematics, urban studies, international studies, and business analytics and technology.
“The things Dell needs in an employee are in alignment with Trinity’s curriculum,” says Mike Owens P’19, a member of the Business Advisory Council for the Trinity School of Business, former vice president at Dell and previous executive sponsor for Dell’s recruiting relationship with Trinity University. Owens’ son, Kevin graduated from Trinity in 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts in Chinese and Bachelor of Science in business administration.
And what are those “things”? For Owens, they’re grit, resilience, and optimism. “Having a foundational set of skills you can apply broadly makes you versatile,” Owens says. These skills send Trinity students through the recruitment process at rates similar to students from Dell’s other go-to institutions, including Penn State and Arizona State University, which enroll 70,000-80,000 undergraduates on multiple campuses. Trinity’s undergraduate student body is typically nearer to 2,500.
Bob Scherer, dean of the Trinity University School of Business, says Dell continues to recruit Trinity students because they are effective members of a multicultural, global team.
“I believe Dell is focused on Trinity, not because the students are trained to do everything required in a position at Dell,” Scherer says, “but because we prepare students to solve problems, think critically, and work in teams regardless of discipline, in or out of the business school.”
Scherer adds that through this ongoing, strategic alliance, Dell provides Trinity with feedback on the skills, knowledge, and abilities students need to be successful there.
“In turn, we’re able to review and fine-tune our curricular offerings to keep pace with industry,” Scherer says.
Thomás Peña ’22 specifically thanks his business analytics and technology (BAT) curriculum for preparing him for his internship with Dell. Fresh off a course in operations management, Peña joined an intern team this past summer at Dell.
“That class really saved me for the entire summer,” Peña says. “It gave me a bunch of mathematical models that I could use to support the project. It gave me the background information about lead time and other types of costs. That information was fresh in my mind.”
Peña joined Dell as part of the Dell Scholars program, a highly selective program specific to sophomore students who self-identify as Black/African-American and/or Hispanic/Latinx. Peña and Chikanma Ibeh ’22 were two out of just 12 students selected globally for the program’s inaugural cohort. Trinity now has three students entering the Dell Scholars program this summer: Tomas Colazo ’23, Andrea Tamez ’23, and Madison Larrea ’23.
The Dell Scholars program begins developing students earlier in their academic career—between their sophomore and junior years—and gives them two summer internships instead of just one. If all goes well, the students are then offered a full-time job at Dell after graduation. Throughout the process, students are also given scholarships, technology, and mentorship with C-Suite executives at Dell.
“This gets them in earlier, helps better prepare them for the workforce, and reduces their financial burden as well,” Mike Owens says.
Though the internship was supposed to take place in Austin, because of COVID-19, Peña joined three students from the University of Texas at San Antonio, Texas Christian University, and Clemson University virtually from the comfort of his room in Witt-Winn Hall on campus.
“It sounds like alien language, but I was working with aged inventory for hard drives and solid-state drives and creating predictive models,” he explains. Peña and his intern team created business intelligence to balance hard drive supply at inventory hubs around the world, connecting centers with high supply and low supply to work with each other for cost-effective inventory solutions. “So we're, at times, on Zoom meetings at 10 p.m. talking to people in Singapore, or waking up at 5 a.m. talking to people in Ireland. There were really global aspects to this project,” Peña says.
Peña, who is from Roma, Texas, says that just as his coursework informed his internship, by the end of the summer, the reverse had also happened. “Getting the experience from the internship from that summer, it even helped me in the classes coming back into my junior year. It made me more confident and really feeling grounded, knowing that I have experience with this. It helped me become a more engaged student in the classroom.”
Big Steps with Big Data
Like Peña, Aroosa Ajani ’18 also relates her coursework in business analytics and technology (BAT) to her time at Dell.
“Trinity makes it easy to follow your interests outside your major—and outside your comfort zone,” says Ajani, who today works in Supply Chain Risk and Resilience for Dell. Her summer internship there led to a full-time position after graduating in 2018 with majors in urban studies and business analytics.
“The Dell recruiters were interested in students who could think about systems and organizations in a critical way,” says Ajani, a Sugar Land, Texas, native. The recruiters pointed to a project Ajani participated in while at Trinity. Conducted for San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg ’99, the project looked at equal funding versus equitable funding of San Antonio’s 10 council districts. The Environmental Impact Statement was led by sociology and anthropology professor Christine Drennon, then-director of the urban studies program.
“We asked ourselves, ‘What does the data say, and how can it paint a picture that relays a message?’” Ajani says about presenting the study’s findings to elected officials. The project gave her experience connecting the study’s findings to policy issues and the goals of elected officials. “That was a very different kind of coursework,” she says, “and such a cool opportunity to have at such a young age.”
In fact, this project carried over specifically into her role with Dell, where she now assesses policy/regulatory and business risk and how Dell can build a more resilient system/supply chain. “This is amazing because it marries my interest in policy and systems planning with my experience in supply chain and data analytics,” Ajani says.
Jorge Colazo, chair of the Department of Finance and Decision Sciences, agrees that these hands-on classroom experiences prepare Trinity students for careers at Dell and beyond. “All upper-division BAT classes are project-based, for students to apply what they’ve learned to real-life problems,” he says. The BAT program partners with dozens of companies and nonprofits for case study materials in the classroom, including Goodwill Industries-SA and Santikos Entertainment.
“This preparation around real-life projects and problems (allows them to) hit the ground running already,” Colazo says. They know exactly what to do—they don’t only know the theory. They know the theory and can apply the theory to different projects.”
The result? Trinity students are in high demand.
“Frankly, once students meet a basic GPA threshold, the only limitation we have is the number of students (in the program), because [companies] can’t get enough.”
A Small Pack
Today, Ajani also program manages Dell’s Trinity recruiting team in Global Operations, working in close collaboration with many other Trinity alumni. She says her recruiting team prioritizes multiple touch points on Trinity’s campus that go beyond just career fairs to include steady engagements on campus and active mentorship.
Starjjil Shelvin ’19, who earned a full-time supply chain and logistics position after an internship with Dell, is involved with recruiting Trinity students, in particular the Dell Scholars program. Many other veterans of the Dell-Trinity internship partnership participate in recruiting efforts, including Camila Londoño ’18, who works in finance at Dell.
“It’s easier when you’re a small pack,” says Londoño, from Medellin, Colombia. She double majored in mathematics and international business.
“Recent grads from other, larger schools don’t necessarily find that same camaraderie,” Mike Owens remarks. “They support, coach, and mentor one another.”
Special thanks to Nicolette Good '07 for contributing to this story.