Durango contains an economic ecosystem as rich as its natural setting. Here, Fort Lewis College students can experience working with nationally competitive companies while staying close to home.
One such company is Vantiv Integrated Payments, which offers paid internships during the summer months to students from the School of Business Administration. “I think it’s important for students to get involved in the work force and get a glimpse into what’s to come,” says Jake West (Business Administration, '06), leader of business development at Vantiv.
Vantiv—formerly Mercury Payment Systems, founded in Durango—integrates the various entities involved in electronic payments, including vendors, point-of-sale developers, and credit card companies. West pioneered an internship partnership between Vantiv and FLC in 2015. He asks these interns to directly assist the new sales team.
“They do a lot of research and qualify leads that come in,” West explains. “We also work a lot on what we call EQ, emotional intelligence. How to interact with interpersonal relationships within the organization, and then how to manage relationships with prospects and new sales opportunities.”
Michael Conway, a double major in Economics and Business Administration, completed a Vantiv internship in the summer of 2016. Now, he’s applying that experience to his senior year. “All that practice really helps me with school,” he says. “It showed me a lot of how people work together in a team, how they operate on goals.”
“And the people at Vantiv were friendly in the Durango way,” Conway adds. “They really made me feel more like family, more like I belonged, more like they’d help me than shoo me away. It showed me a lot of what a sales department is like and further established that I want to be in sales.”
West sees the difference the internship made to Conway’s academic approach. “The experience at Vantiv taught him that he needs to come out of college as prepared as possible, and to be able to show his future employer that he’s been able to apply himself,” he says.
Vantiv’s FLC connection goes beyond current students. The company is a rich environment for the entire College community; a quarter of its Durango workforce is composed of FLC alumni. This total includes some of the company’s leadership. “Three of the top sales leaders of our organization, who manage and oversee hundreds of people, are all Fort Lewis grads,” West says.
West explains that this familial environment bridges the gap between college and employment for his interns. And he has been stunned by the value of the program for both the interns and his own sales team.
“Honestly, the interns have helped my folks work much smarter and capture more opportunities because they come in and exceed expectations,” he says. “The students that I’ve had so far have been fantastic. We’ve been blown away with what smart, well qualified folks are coming out of FLC. They’ve been tremendously impressive. I’m very excited to continue this internship for years to come.”