Up, Up, and Away: Business Students Launch Careers… Literally

Hilary Bentman, Assistant Director of Communications
Student aims a T-shirt cannon while surrounded by faculty and staff

On a bright autumn day, a group of students gathered next to Quick Center – home of the School of Business Administration (SBA) – to share some good news.

Each had already lined up a job, more than six months before graduation.

It was definitely cause to celebrate. But it was made even sweeter by the fact that these students – along with faculty and staff – were back on campus together after COVID kept so many remote the year before.

“It got us rethinking our traditions, how we spend time with one another, and how and what we celebrate,” said Donna McCloskey, SBA associate dean for undergraduate programs.

McCloskey and other SBA administrators knew this celebration needed something extra special – some tangible representation of students embarking on their professional careers.

Bottle of champagne? A bell? A catapult?

“We got hooked on the word ‘launch,’” as in career launch, said McCloskey.

Eight students pose for a photo with the center student holding a T-shirt launcher.
Graduating SBA students shared their job plans by launching T-shirts

SBA eventually landed on the idea of a T-shirt launcher and turned to the School of Engineering (SOE) for help building it.

On that bright November day, the SBA students stepped up to share where they’ll be working after graduation, took aim with the SOE-built, blue and gold, hand-held cannon, and launched a blue T-shirt high into the air. 

Each launch was cheered by the crowd of SBA and SOE administrators, faculty (current and retired), students, and other spectators who watched from a safe distance. 

Gavin Poole ’22, an economics and finance major who has been hired by the accounting firm EisnerAmper, called the launch experience unique and above and beyond. 

It shows how faculty really do care, and they live up to what they preach and advertise about the SBA. It speaks volumes. — Gavin Poole '22

As part of the launch, the students had the chance to invite a faculty member to stand beside them in recognition of their years of support. 

Accounting major Danielle Mininno ’22 invited Professor Joe Hargadon to join her. Mininno first met Hargadon as a high school student during a Widener open house event. That meeting helped her decide that Widener was the right choice.

“I talked to him and I definitely wanted to come here. And he’s been so supportive all the way through,” she said. 

Another reason Mininno chose Widener is the university’s well-regarded co-op program. One of her co-ops led to her job offer as an audit associate with accounting firm Baker Tilly

While brainstorming ideas to recognize students, SBA administrators realized the event could be a great opportunity for cross-campus collaboration.

McCloskey reached out to mechanical engineering Assistant Professor Babak Eslami about building the launcher. Eslami, in turn, brought in Widener’s student chapter of the American Society for Mechanical Engineers, led by Chris Tran ’23.

Engineering student stands in the machine shop holding a blue and yellow T-shirt cannon
Mechanical engineering major Chris Tran '23 helped build the launcher

Tran, a mechanical engineering major, recruited fellow students Andrew O’Donohue, Alden Littlefield, Jonathan Bell, Tyler Hoinkis, and Christina Giska. And, with the help of Eslami and machine shop technician David Leuter, the team got to work.

Two weeks and several design iterations later, the group had a working T-shirt launcher that could propel an object about 50 yards.

Partially 3D printed, the launcher was painted and emblazoned with a NASA-inspired Widener logo, created by Tran, who does graphic design on the side.

Tran was on hand for the inaugural SBA launch event and said it was “really exciting to see. Business and engineering go hand-in-hand. A lot of people don’t see that. They’re the people selling the stuff we’re making.”

Andrew Crosby, a 4+1 student who is completing his MBA in organizational leadership, was the first to launch a T-shirt.

“I really didn’t know what to expect being the first person. Just turn the knob and see what happens,” he said.

After graduation, Crosby will work as an area manager with Amazon. Having a job lined up so early is an “indescribable” feeling, he said.

“I’m really blessed and in a great position,” said Crosby, who said that weight off his shoulders allows him to focus on finishing his graduate studies strong, and on his last season on the Widener track team. “I really thank Widener and all the professors who helped support me.”

Widener hasn’t seen the last of the T-shirt launcher. SBA plans to roll it out for other celebrations, including possibly at Homecoming. And Tran and Eslami are already thinking about building a more powerful second version.

@wideneruniversity

Biz students announce post-grad jobs by launching T-shirts from cannon built by engineering students 🚀#WidenerUniversity #CareerLaunch #BusinessSchool #engineering #STEMtok #productivity

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