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Off the Field with Nittany Lion Internships

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - While just a few days separate Penn State Football from its return to Beaver Stadium for its season opener against Akron, take a step back toward the earlier months of summer for a closer look at what the Nittany Lions were up to off the field. 

While offseason workouts and strength training are all key to summer development on the field, taking time to gain some hands-on experience outside of the classroom is just as vital to Penn State football student-athletes.

A total of 10 Nittany Lions secured internships during the offseason, with a few others spending their summer down time working at the Red Cell Analytics Lab on campus with the College of Information Sciences and Technology.

From finance to physical therapy and communications to criminology, internship experiences were far and wide, taking Nittany Lions anywhere from Happy Valley to New York or even as far as Oregon.

Check in with a few of our Nittany Lions who shared their summer internship experience.

Senior punter Danny Pasquariello is among eight Nittany Lions with an undergraduate degree, having graduated last December with an economics degree before moving on to pursue his second in labor studies and employment relations this fall. 

While scouring the web one day, Pasquariello's research led him to Geller & Company, a boutique financial services firm that offers private wealth management and investment management services for high net worth individuals. 

"Geller has a pretty big book of clients and there are about 500 people in the firm," Pasquirello said. "You really get a good grasp of everything in New York because we were dealing with clients down on Wall Street and then everything in Manhattan, so it was a pretty broad scope for a small boutique company."

With a little more research, Pasquariello stumble upon head of manager selection Jonathan Barbato, a Penn State alumnus who even completed the same module as Pasquariello in the economics program. With contact information at the end of his biography, Pasquariello took a chance and decided to reach out with an email.

With hiring timing coinciding perfectly with his note to Barbato, Pasquariello quickly submitted his resume, completed a pair of interviews and earned an offer. As one of 12 interns selected, Pasquariello beat out about 100 other prospective interns, also earning the single intern spot on the investments team.

In a typical day, Pasquariello sat in on a mid-morning meeting to check in on the markets before a client briefing. Spending the rest of the day diving into client portfolios to complete a summer-long project, his experience wasn't over once he left the building. 

Pasquariello spent as much time as possible reaching out to Penn State Football lettermen in the area, often meeting for lunch, dinner or even a simple cup of coffee. Getting to know those who had come before him.

"We spoke about Penn State Football, what we're doing, how we got there. I really built up a great network of people," Pasquariello said.

Networking was also a highlight for Nittany Lion quarterback Trace McSorley, who spent the summer interning with Merill Lynch at its State College branch, following in the footsteps of Penn State kicker Sam Ficken, who also completed the same internship two years prior. 

For McSorley, a typical day included adjustments to client wealth outlooks and databases, while also sitting in and shadowing meetings throughout the day. 

"The best part was the networking that I was able to do," McSorley said. "Being able to get in touch with some former letterman who are Merill Lynch or even any client who was coming in, I was able to at least get a formal introduction. I was able to go over to the Penn State Investments office as well and meet with everyone there too."

Wide receiver and telecommunications major DaeSean Hamilton also kept it close to Happy Valley this summer, completing his internship with the State College Spikes, Penn State's minor league Class A Short Season affiliate team of the St. Louis Cardinals. 

For a more behind the scenes the experience on the Intercollegiate Athletics side of things though, journalism Marcus Allen spent the summer interning with Penn State Marketing, with RPTM major Parker Cothren at Penn State Sports Camps and telecommunications major Saeed Blacknall just up the stairs in the Lasch Building interning with the Nittany Lion video productions staff.

For Blacknall, he stumbled upon his internship opportunity one day when he found himself checking in with assistant video director Blake Newsock in his office.

"He didn't know that I had any video editing experience so I was upstairs asking questions and I came back up and showed him some of my stuff from high school and he looked at it and was really surprised," Blacknall said.

Blacknall started out making simple highlights and videos growing up for himself and his little brother, knowing that when he arrived at Penn State he'd settle on his telecommunications major.

"I'm really proud of my growth," Blacknall said looking back on the experience. "Not even looking at my first project, but looking at how far I'd come from iMovie to completing my last project."

For corner back data sciences major John Reid, he went to the west coast for an internship opportunity with Intel on one of its five campuses in Oregon. 

"I worked with the data center group," Reid said. "They do a lot of work with servers and platforms. They have some really big customers, usually your everyday user isn't really buying servers, it's more for larger companies." 

Arriving at a sprawling Intel campus, as an intern Reid was allowed to dine in the cafeteria, as well as take some time for a little fun in a game room. Reid even admitted to getting lost a few times trying to navigate his workplace, having to use maps to find his way.

On the experience side of things, Reid spent his days moving back and forth between his desk and a lab, spending most of his time working on projects surrounding machine learning, an area Reid thrives in. 

Often a complex topic to the average passerby, Reid, who enjoys all things tech for fun, smiled while breaking down topics and frameworks like artificial intelligence, using thoughtful metaphors to illustrate the connected to deep learning and machine learning. All things he noted are often used interchangeably, but to someone like Reid, they're all actually very different.

"Most of my stuff has been self-taught," Reid said. "We have a couple of PhD students here at Penn State in my lab who have been helping me out, but when I learn a new concept, I bring it to them to verify my understanding." 

Taking his unique talent to Oregon this summer, Reid noted that many of the interns and staff members he worked with actually didn't even know about his other talent. One of three interns on his team, Reid's football career didn't come up too much in all of the complex coding and algorithms among many other topics too complex to comprehend.

"I think my manager and the manager of the team knew that I played football but they didn't end up finding out that I played football until I guess they saw the tags on my book bag," Reid said. "I don't think there are many football players who do machine learning or artificial intelligence." 

For Reid, the experience provided of course a valuable network and a tremendous opportunity, but also a big step toward a different passion of his that doesn't take place on the football field. 

"After football, I think I want to be part of that generation that pioneers those big breakthroughs in Artificial Intelligence, one that has computers that are actually able to somewhat 'think,'" Reid said.


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