IMC Students Excel During Prestigious Internship Program

By Grace Collins ’23, October 8, 2019
Rachel Cutsumpas and Nicole Peter spent the past summer in highly selective American Advertising Federation Stickell internships.

A college having a student selected for a Stickell internship — one of the country’s most prestigious advertising internship programs — is a badge of honor. This past summer, Ithaca College took that a step further and had a pair of students, Rachel Cutsumpas 20 and Nicole Peter 20, earn the distinction.

The Stickell internship program, established in 1989 by the American Advertising Federation and The Los Angeles Times, matches 20 rising seniors with advertising agencies and media organizations around the country for ten-week paid summer internships.

Peter, an integrated marketing communications (IMC) major with minors in graphic design and French, and Cutsumpas, an IMC major with a communication management and design minor, were the 15th and 16th Ithaca students to be selected for the program.

A young woman drinking from a mug

Nicole Peter’s internship with Energy BBDO gave her a more in-depth experience than previous internships.

Peter’s internship was at Energy BBDO, a full-service Chicago-based advertising firm. This allowed her an opportunity to expand on her previous internship experiences. “All my past internships have been with smaller organizations that needed advertising help, not ones focused solely on advertising, so I was really interested in working in an environment that was focused on media planning and creative,” she said.

During her internship, Peter primarily worked in the accounts services department. Her projects focused on the Ocean Spray and Home Instead Senior Care accounts, and included an analysis of the Pinterest market and a generational cultural analysis. She was able to present her work to both internal department members and the clients themselves. In addition to her day-to-day work, Peter was also tasked with an intern project, where she and other interns were split into three teams and given mentors. Competing against each other, they worked with a local tech startup, ChangEd, to develop a digital campaign, which each team presented at the end of the summer. Peter’s team took home the top spot.

“[That was] super cool,” she said. “I think our strategy translated really well into the work we were doing.”

Cutsumpas spent her summer interning with The Richards Group in Dallas, Texas. Working for the brand media team, her main focus was the Firehouse Subs account. She assisted with digital media reporting and helped to ensure that different projects were meeting their goals.

As her internship was winding down, she was assigned a project where she worked with both the brand planning and media teams to do research on consumers who are customers of competitor brands. 

“I really enjoyed that because I got to not just do the research, but build potential insights, which are like building blocks for the team to use in later quarters and future campaigns,” Cutsumpas said. “You get to use the data, numbers, analytics part of your mind, but also the more creative part, figuring out ‘What does this actually mean?’”

Peter and Cutsumpas credited Ithaca College, and the IMC program in particular, with helping them secure the internships and excel in them. They are both on the executive board of the college’s chapter of the AAF, from which associate professor Scott Hamula, chair of the Department of Strategic Communications, nominates students for the Stickell program. Custumpas said that years of group projects helped her be ready to work on a team and meet objectives, and create a campaign that always focuses on the main goal.

Peter added that being involved with the AAF, The Ithacan and working as a Dean’s Host for the Roy H. Park School of Communications allowed her to discover and pursue her passions.

“Do things that are out of your comfort zone and find a way to make them work for you and make it relevant to your career.”

Nicole Peter ’20

For students looking to pursue similar opportunities, Cutsumpas says to take advantage of the many opportunities the college provides, such as professional organizations that allow you to apply the skills you’re learning in class in a real-life setting. “In a sense, that’s like a mini internship,” she said. “You never know what thing is going to make you say, ‘This is what I want to do.’”

Peter encourages students to take a chance on something they might not otherwise. “Do things that are out of your comfort zone and find a way to make them work for you and make it relevant to your career,” she said. “Put your heart and soul in those things and work to have an impact on them.”