Lakeland University News

Lakeland student making most of classroom, Co-Op experiences

Lakeland student making most of classroom, Co-Op experiences


Lakeland student making most of classroom, Co-Op experiences

Sheboygan County Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer Deidre Martinez didn’t come to her alma mater last December looking for an intern, but this visit proved serendipitous.

Lakeland University junior Gabe Ascher put on a clinic in networking skills during a lunch conversation that netted him a job with the chamber, the latest in a series of accomplishments for the Wautoma, Wis., native. The 20-year-old is in his second year of college and on track to graduate with a Lakeland bachelor’s degree in business administration with a finance emphasis in three years.

Martinez, who received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Lakeland, had returned to campus to speak at the annual Business & Entrepreneurship Colloquium, which spotlights successful alumni.

Ascher, a recipient of Lakeland’s prestigious J. Garland Schilcutt Scholarship, was seated at Martinez’s table for a luncheon with high school students after the event. About an hour later, he was on his way to becoming finance and administrative support intern for the Sheboygan County Chamber.

“In my professional experience and as a parent, Gabe is really quite mature for his age,” Martinez said. “He is obviously super smart, and if he wants it, he’s going to go out and get it. He’s hungry, a young man further ahead in his career for his age.”

Ascher has a wide-ranging role at the chamber that includes finance, marketing, networking and leadership. He’s worked with Quickbooks, accounts receivable, spreadsheets and budget creation. He gathered data and created the chamber’s 2023 success graphic and is playing a lead role in creating the chamber’s Community and Resource Guide, a significant piece that is distributed to 15,000-plus people. He’s worked on the “Make Your Mark” workforce development campaign with local experiential marketing agency Fifth Color.

He has also helped to lead the chamber’s junior leadership program pilot, honing his public speaking and leadership skills by working with talented high school juniors and seniors.

“Gabe is young, hip and cool and he knows us,” Martinez said. “He’s had an opportunity to build important professional relationships. He’s getting a full experience of business in general. We don’t all get to work in places where we are so compartmentalized.”

This is Ascher’s first office experience and his first using financial software and technical terms in the workplace.

“It’s been a lot more hands-on with everything,” said Ascher, who was named winner of Lakeland’s 2023-24 Outstanding Student in Business Administration. “You get thrown into the fire and see what happens. You’re tasked with problems, and you come up with solutions.

“I’ve learned that everyone works at different speeds. The way people communicate is different – some want reminders about projects and others don’t and you have to cater your communication style to that. I’ve done a lot of asking who needs help. I tell people ‘I am looking to make your life easier.’”

Applying the skills he is learning in the classroom in various workplaces is a centerpiece of Ascher’s time at Lakeland. He is on track to earn 15 academic credits toward his degree thanks to Lakeland’s Cooperative Education program.

This summer, he has landed a highly sought finance internship with global consumer goods company Unilever at their U.S. headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, N.J. Unilever owns approximately 400 brands, including products like Dove, Marmite, Lynx, Ben & Jerry's and Hellmann's.

Ascher will learn the brand he’ll be assigned to work with about two weeks before he moves to New Jersey in early June. He will also know when he leaves toward the end of summer if Unilever will offer him a job post-graduation.

The Unilever role will be the fourth employer for this young professional. After working for Culver’s, Ascher spent three summers working at Two Oaks North Golf Course in his hometown. He’s served a variety of roles including operating the pro shop, coordinating and leading large golf outings, and assisting with golf operations and bartending.

He also finds time to be involved at Lakeland, serving as a resident assistant and a member of Lakeland’s basketball and golf teams.

“I’m a small-town kid who went to a small high school and college who’s getting thrown into New Jersey and the greater New York area,” Ascher said with a smile. “I’ll get a good perspective on that life and take away those lessons. I’ll have experience working in smaller and bigger environments to see which one I prefer.”

Martinez said young professionals like Ascher are exactly what Sheboygan County needs for its future workforce and demonstrate how Lakeland’s Co-Op program is a talent importer for the region.

“Lakeland is the largest contributor of bringing outside talent into Sheboygan County and working to retain them in our space,” Martinez said. “As employers, we need to understand what Lakeland is doing, support it in a greater way and give them more opportunities. Employers need to be trained in how to engage with young professionals to ensure a good internship experience.

“We need to make sure we’re empowering young professionals. We need to engage them in Sheboygan County culture. As they are emersed they choose to stay here. We need that on a larger scale.”

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