Making Connections: Business Student Finds Internship through Mentorship

Margaret Pike
Margaret Pike

Network. Network. Network.

A mantra repeated so often by parents, professors, and counselors it must seem like an echo to students, nevertheless, the act is critically important and the results priceless. For Margaret Pike, a super senior who transferred to George Mason University School of Business from Northern Virginia Community College with an AS in business administration, taking advantage of the connections she can make at Mason was an opportunity she would not let pass.

“You never know what conversations will lead you to,” says Pike. There are so many people willing to help and talk to college students, and a lot of the time students don’t realize that.”

In September, Pike landed an internship with the U.S. Department of State through their Virtual Student Federal Service (VSFS) internship program, and she credits the connection she made with alumnus Bruce Baldwin, ’05, MPA ’07 with the opportunity. Baldwin was an alumni guest speaker in Pike’s BUS 303 class, Professional Skills: Advanced Elements, taught by Christine Landoll, business foundations instructor and director of business engagement at the School of Business.

“I love connecting students and business leaders,” says Landoll, who treats creating engagement opportunities and preparing students for them as a key part of her job. “In my 303 class, we conduct mock interviews with business leaders, many of whom are alumni. My favorite result is seeing the confidence this instills in students. The leaders are open about failures and challenges, and they also point out the students' strengths as they see them. All these elements make the students feel so comfortable and walk away with wonderful confidence and new business connections.”

Following her mock interview, Pike sent Baldwin an email. “I ended up talking to him to learn more about the U.S. State Department and he let me do an interview with him for an assignment,” says Pike. “We kept in touch and he told me about the VSFS internship program and encouraged me to apply for it.” Baldwin even helped Pike edit her resume and guided her as she looked into different offices to apply to.

“Interacting with students is both fun and rewarding,” says Baldwin. “I always believed that if I could touch the life of at least one person, I was successful. I take that same approach with this. If there is something I can do to that will positively affect one’s outcome in life, then I’ve done what I needed as a person. This is how I pay it back and pay it forward, and therefore I enjoy participating.”

Since last September Pike has been a virtual intern for the Global Public Affairs Executive Strategic Planning and Organizational Excellence team in the U.S. Department of State, assisting in researching and creating a virtual orientation program for the bureau.

Pike takes great pride in her journey at Mason and her networking successes despite the challenges posed by the pandemic. “I transferred over during COVID but I’ve still been making the most of it by talking to my professors and trying to reach out virtually.” Despite the challenging circumstances in the world, she’s happy she followed her mother, Francis Sutto Pike ‘82 to her alma mater. “My mom always told me about how versatile and helpful her degree was, and I wanted a degree that would help me no matter where I went.”

Tips for other students?  Pike recommends seizing every opportunity you can. “I never would have imagined that sending a thank you email would have resulted in me receiving help for applying for an internship and then getting one. And from that one connection I’ve gotten the opportunity to reach out and connect with so many other folks that I would never have dreamed of getting to talk to a year ago.”

“It’s scary to reach out to people you don’t know, but those people can end up becoming mentors and friends and can help you achieve things you never thought you could have before.”