Student Involvement Leads to Internship with AlumStudent Involvement Leads to Internship with Alum
Networking steps taken by a business student lead to a surprise internship with the world's largest chemical management services company.

For several summers, Haas Group International, the world’s largest chemical management services company, has taken on at least one intern from the School of Business.

Last fall, after a meeting of the School of Business Advisory Council, Caitlyn Reinecker ’11, approached Thad Fortin ’81, the Haas Group chief executive officer, for advice on how to conduct a job search.

That conversation – another of the many networking steps Reinecker has taken since she was a freshman – led to a surprise offer, the first winter internship Haas Group has provided. Reinecker spent two weeks of winter break as an intern in sales at Haas headquarters in West Chester, Pa.

“I have had my eye on Caitlyn since she was a freshman. She has impressed since then, and I think she can be a candidate for employment here at Haas,” said Fortin, who’s also BAC chairman. The Business Advisory Council assists the dean on issues of strategic planning, curriculum design, mentoring of students, and internships and externships. Its 14 members include 11 business school graduates.

“I have always been a strong believer in the power of networking, which is why I have been doing it since I first learned its meaning four years ago as a freshman,” said Reinecker, a business administration concentrating in marketing and management. She holds two jobs on campus and has been a leader of seven organizations, among them the Deans’ Hosts, Business Link, Peer Advisors, and the Dean’s Student Advisory Council.

That activity impresses potential employers.

“I was very impressed by her presence and maturity even as a freshman,” said Fortin. “She‘s active in many things, and I liked the way she made presentations.”

Many of those presentations came two years ago when, as a sophomore, Reinecker was a co-founder of Business Link, a student initiative that connects current students with alumni to help students network and develop their professional skills.

“To get Business Link off the ground I had the responsibility of meeting and talking with several alumni, to introduce them to the concept of Business Link and receive their support and backing,” she said. The presentations included several before the BAC.

She was talking with Chris LaCroix ’79, another BAC member, last fall. He suggested she speak with Fortin, who put her in touch with the Haas executive vice president of global sales and marketing. After two phone interviews she received the internship offer.

Reinecker was assigned to modify a capabilities presentation Haas would use in presentations to prospective clients. Haas Group International provides traditional chemical management services, product distribution, logistics/warehousing and hazardous communication services to customers in 25 countries.

The first intern in a department other than accounting, she also created a framework for Haas to utilize for future interns. She met with several managers and upper-level executives to understand their role in the company. And she soaked up the leadership style of Thad Fortin, who started working at Haas, a family-owned business the year he graduated from Ithaca.

His father, John J. Fortin, had acquired Charles J. Haas Inc., a specialty chemical manufacturer in 1975, and the company has been transformed into a chemical manager. In 1982, it expanded from the metalworking and specialty chemicals markets to the automotive market, introducing a new product to clean up the shops where new cars were painted. Thad Fortin convinced General Motors to sign its first contract with Haas in 1994, for chemical management of a minivan plant in Baltimore. Next came a contract for management of the GM truck plant in Flint, Mich., in 1996, followed later that year by a contract for the Oshawa, Ontario, plant, at the time GM’s largest, producing 800,000 cars and trucks a year.

The company’s annual revenue doubled, from $7 million in 1995 to $15 million in 1996. That same year, Thad Fortin was named president that year, succeeding his father, who remains board chairman.

In 2009, the company’s revenue reached $475 million.

“Thad Fortin is very down to earth and genuinely cares about his company and the people that work for him,” said Reinecker. “Everyone sees him every day and he makes sure to strike up conversations with all of his employees throughout the week.

“He made it a point on my first day to see that I was comfortable and everything the company had set up for me was OK. He took me out to lunch the next day to get to know me better too.

“We had a very nice conversation about Ithaca. It was made clear to me that he has a strong passion for Ithaca College and wants nothing but the best for it and everyone there, similar to the passion he has for his company.”

What qualities did Fortin identify in Reinecker that made her a good candidate for an internship?

“She got involved as a freshman. She continued to make presentations in front of the BAC, and always had a positive outlook,” he said.

He views the role of alumni as crucial for students in today’s challenging job market. It’s their duty to Ithaca College, he says:

“Jobs are now harder to come by now than at any time in my experience. If each BAC member or alum can mentor an IC business student, then the world gets a lot bigger to the student and with more opportunities.”

Reinecker says she still talks with people she met on her internship.

“I left Haas Group International with the recommendations from my team to enjoy the rest of my senior year and to make sure that I remember these days because before I know it, it will be over. I really enjoyed my time at Haas and am excited about the possibility of working there in the future as well.”

And she looks forward to continuing as an enthusiastic participant in the School of Business network long after she graduates.

“I advocate the importance of networking to other students as well, perform workshops on how to network and offer endless opportunities and events to students to network as well.

It never ceases to amaze me the amount of help Ithaca College alumni continue to lend to students, and I cannot wait until I can do the same for the school as well.”


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