From Mixer to Office: How a Class Presentation Led to a Valuable Internship
“It’s definitely a unique community that is really rare in many schools. It exists in smaller situations like sororities and clubs, but at Dominican, everyone is going toward a common goal,” – Gabriella Tassano (BA ‘19)
Gabriella Tassano, is an accomplished athlete, Student Ambassador, and junior business/ graphic design double-major in the Four Plus One business program and where she’s taking classes towards her master’s degree. With an already impressive list of accomplishments to her name, it wasn’t surprising that Eckhoff and Company, a CPA firm based in San Rafael, went above and beyond to track her down. At Professor ChangSeob Yeo’s Marketing Management class project presentations to the San Rafael Chamber of Commerce, Tassano’s poised, articulate and confident presentation caught the attention of Michele Hassid, Managing Partner at Eckhoff and Company. Hassid and other Chamber of Commerce members were in the audience as Tassano and 20 of her classmates presented their research on how to increase local business participation in the Chamber. She was very impressed with Tassano, but, unfortunately, she didn’t write down her name.
“She just stood out to me as exceptionally well spoken… she seemed to really have an understanding of what she was presenting,” said Hassid.
But Hassid remembered her distinctive red hair, so when an opportunity to hire an intern came up, she reached out to the Dean of the Barowsky School of Business Barowsky School, Sam Beldona. And, two months later, when Tassano got back from winter break, Courtney Budesa, the Director of Dominican’s Internships and Professional Development department, contacted her – the only red-headed business major in the school.
Tassano, who grew up in Tracy, California, was recruited by Dominican as a soccer player in high school. She was intrigued by their Division II sports program, but, at her first visit, she also sensed a “homey-ness” on the campus that she hadn’t noticed at larger schools.
“I felt like it was a place I could be. And I compared every other school I looked at to Dominican,” she said.
While soccer was a significant part of her motivation for choosing a college, she knew she also had to look beyond the lens of sports and Dominican appealed to her for many reasons. She appreciated that Dominican doesn’t require students to immediately declare a major and she felt confident that she could graduate within four years – even if she chose to double major. She also loved the location close to San Francisco and Tracy, so her parents could still come to her soccer games. And she was reassured by the small class sizes and emphasis on practical skills that the faculty would help prepare her for job opportunities as she entered the work world.
She also noticed a common sentiment among Dominican students: everyone is very open and willing to help and support each other.
“When I did the tour, I met students in the hallways and they offered me their phone numbers to text in the future. That would never happen in a normal environment, but it’s so much how the culture is at Dominican,” she said.
In this collaborative environment, Tassano got the sense that everyone was on the same level and wanted to share their knowledge and experiences. It’s something that she continues to notice as an upperclassman.
“Whether it’s a professor or a peer, the positivity of everyone and the willingness to succeed continues to impress me,” she said.
In fact, she is such an advocate of the school that she has been working as a Student Ambassador since she was a freshman, guiding prospective students through the application process. Student Ambassadors are some of the first people prospective students meet and, as a representative of the university, they give campus tours and share their personal experiences as students. Tassano said she enjoys seeing herself in the newcomers’ shoes and helping ease any concerns or hesitations they might have.
“A lot of people don’t know what it’s like at a small university. We paint that picture for them and let them see what their life would be like here,” she said. “It’s very rewarding to see them come back as students.”
In addition to this campus job, Tassano has held two internships, including her current position at Eckhoff and Company. After deciding to focus on graphic design and business (she is the first student to pair them as a double major), she was curious to explore her career opportunities. And, as is the same for all Dominican students, she needed to fulfill a one-unit internship requirement. First, she shadowed her aunt who worked in marketing for the cosmetics company Sephora. Then last year, through the assistance of the internship director, she found a paid three-unit graphic design internship with the Unicorn Group, a printing services company in Novato. She worked there nine hours a week until, with their support, she left to start her current position at Eckhoff.
As the first Dominican student to be working at the company, Tassano has already made a great impression and stands as a worthy representative of her school.
“Dominican is doing a great job preparing students for the business world,” said Hassid. “[The business program] doesn’t seem only theory based…it’s more hands-on with real-life experience.”
Tassano is one of two people working in Eckhoff’s newly created marketing department. Under the supervision of a full-time employee, she is directly involved in the campaign to promote the company’s new wealth management division. She’s helping to create and strengthen the company’s social media and web presence and develop a marketing plan that includes educational materials and speaking engagements. It’s a tall order, but Hassid and her colleagues are confident Tassano will succeed.
“We think she’s a capable and very ambitious young woman and we’re excited to see what she’s going to bring,” said Hassid. “We’re always looking for ambitious smart people and when we find them we’re going to try to find a place for them.”
In fact, because of Dominican’s unique program and location near their headquarters, Eckhoff hopes to hire more Dominican students as interns and employees in both accounting and wealth management.
Tassano said her responsibilities fit well with her burgeoning interest in marketing and she’s already been able to utilize some of her graphic design skills. Recently, Eckhoff and Company was awarded “Best Small Business” by the San Rafael Chamber of Commerce and Tassano was charged with designing an electronic badge for the award. The Chamber will also use it as a template for all of the award recipients.
“In December…I would have never guessed that I’d be working for an accounting firm, but doing financing work without having to punch the numbers is really exciting for me,” she said. “And they’ve expressed that there’s a lot of room for me to grow.”