News Archive

2018 Student-Centered Workshop on Innovative Solutions to Business Challenges: Student Reflections on their Internship Experience 

Zordan Experience

This year the winning team of Zordan,’s challenge spent a two-week internship in Italy at the Zordan’s headquarters and one week in Michigan at Woodways, Zordan’s American company. The internship included travel and all expenses. This has proven to be a great experience the company is providing our talented students.

Dante Esqueda, Col’21

When my team was announced as the winners of the Innovative Solutions to Business Challenges Competition, it felt as if I won the lottery. On the inside I was bursting with excitement knowing I was not only interning for such a great company that values hard-work, its customers, and the environment, but also that this internship was in Italy and in Michigan. As a low-income, first-generation, student I never had the opportunity to travel out of the country or around the United States, because my family did not have enough money for big vacations. This is why before beginning the internship, I became excited, doing research on Northern Italy and setting high expectations for the trip. Now, after finishing the internship I can say these expectations were most definitely met.

During the first week of the Italy part of the internship, we were immersed in Northern Italian culture by traveling to many Northern Italian cities, including Valdagno, Vicenza, Padova, Venice, Verona, and Milano. Each day, we met with a tour guide who showed us the most significant historical buildings and monuments and explained to us the history of each city. Being immersed in Italian culture was extraordinary; from seeing Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet come to life in Verona, watching the renowned gondolas sailing through the aquatic streets of Venice, staring at the remarkable architecture of the many, many cathedrals found on nearly every corner, similar to Starbucks in the United States, or even tasting foods, new for me, but traditional in Italy, it was hard to not see the history in every moment.

After our time traveling, we began work for Zordan during the second week. Our team project was to develop a business plan for Woodways, Zordan’s newly bought United States company, based on the information we learned from Zordan and the information we knew about the United States. Therefore, to learn the information, every work day in Italy we listened to presentations from many employees of Zordan. Through these presentations, we learned everything about the business process, including safety, production, sales and marketing, project management, operations, technical design, partners, and installation and after sales. At the end of the week of work, we presented everything we learned and reflected on how we could use this information for the second part of the internship.

A few weeks after the Italian part, I traveled to Grand Rapids, Michigan, for the second part of the internship. This meant that we would first learn about the business process of Woodways and then develop a business plan based on that information, the information we learned in Italy, and information we already knew as United States citizens. After gaining all of the knowledge we needed, we developed a presentation explaining our ideas for Woodways’ potential market, streamlined process, marketing strategies, potential partners, potential clients, internet presence, investments, and budgeting. We presented all of our research and ideas to company executives and the part of our team that did not come to Michigan with us on these dates. After finishing our part of the project, the rest of the work was finished by the other half of the team a few weeks later.

This was an extraordinary opportunity, filled with friendly and intelligent people, life-changing work experience, and unforgettable sights. It also allowed me to realize my career interests in a business setting. I still cannot believe that I was chosen for this internship, but I feel so blessed that I was. Experiences like these make me so happy that I chose Georgetown University as my college. I want to say thank you to sponsors of the Innovative Solutions to Business Challenges Workshop and Zordan for making this opportunity possible. I cannot wait to see how this experience will help me in the future.

Melisssa Zheng, MSB’20

This was an awesome experience!

This summer, my team and I got an inside look at a very successful and socially responsible furniture business, Zordan. During the two weeks we stayed in Italy, we toured the Veneto region and learned in depth about the company. We explored Valdagno, Zordan’s headquarters; Vicenza, with many villas; Padova, where Galileo studied; Venice, the city on water; and Verona, Romeo and Juliet’s hometown. The second week, we toured the company and its suppliers, producing a detailed report on Zordan and its sustainable practices. The highlights of the trip for me definitely were the food and the local drink, spritz, as well as playing rugby with the Italians!

In Michigan, we learned about the newest addition to Zordan, the American company Woodways. We worked closely with CEO Maurizio Zordan to formulate a business plan to expand the business to surrounding areas. In our free time, we visited Lake Michigan and started a 1000-piece puzzle of Michigan. Overall, the Italian Business Challenge experience really enriched my summer and understanding of standup business and Italian culture.

Caroline Cosovich, Col.’21
zordan at woodways*

Working at Woodways in Michigan this summer offered an enlightening experience into the world of the custom-made business. With the new Italian ownership, my partners and I felt welcomed at all times and I was able to practice my Italian language skills with native speakers. The internship entailed a balance of structure and freedom: we worked the same hours as full-time employees and were present for meetings and client visits during the work day and then were able to explore and rest in the evening. Visiting the factory where all the manufacturing is done was fascinating and allowed us to understand Woodways’ capabilities and goals. The tasks we were assigned to essentially present at the end of our stay were sometimes challenging, which allowed us to develop new business skills, regardless of our lack of experience or background.

*Caroline unfrotunately was not able to particpate in the two-week internship in Italy

Oluseyi Osobamiro, Col’20

Through the Italian Research Institute and Italia Innovation Program Internship I was able to travel to Valdagno, Italy for a two-week internship with the Italian shopfitting company Zordan.  I was able to be a part of this experience after my team participated in a one-day Innovation Solutions Workshop where we competed with other teams to craft a business plan for the company. After we won the competition we kept in contact with Zordan and were awarded a two-week internship with their company in Italy as well as a one-week internship with their local branch called Woodways in Michigan.

For my two-week experience in Italy, my team and I were first given a week to explore the Veneto region of Italy. This was especially transformative because we were able to understand the roots of the company as well as how factors such as architectural style and histories of business giants have impacted the company as well as the entire region itself. The company arranged for us to visit Vicenza, Padova, Venice, and Verona. For each visit we had a tour guide meet us and show us famous sights, museums, restaurants, and more. We were able to see how distinct each place was and the beautiful culture that it possesses.  On the second week we worked within Zordan alongside the members of the company. Each department explained what they do and how it contributes to the company’s success. We also had a tour of the production plant and were able to see the actually fabrication of the furniture which Zordan ships to its buyers. At the end of the second week we presented our findings in a report, which we later referenced for our work in Woodways.

For our final week in Woodways in Michigan, we worked to create a comprehensive business plan that was based on research into future markets for nationwide expansion of the company. As a team we did a lot of hands on work such as analyzing market trends, brainstorming marketing tactics, and even crunching numbers to determine appropriate investments for a financial plan. It was an intensive week, but at the end we had completed a business plan which we presented to the heads of both Woodways and Zordan in addition to other members of the board.

What I loved about this experience is that unlike other internships were you simply make copies or fetch coffee, my team and I were given a real problem to tackle. I was able to use the skills I had learned at school and apply them to an office setting. Additionally, the company which I was fortunate to work with gave us time to experience the culture of the area and worked hard to make sure that we felt like members of the team and not just external individuals. This experience was one that I truly learned much from and was happy to have embarked on.

Eni S.p.A.  Internship Experience

For the third year Eni has participated in the Workshop and has offered paid internships at their Washington headquarter, headed by Gianni di Giovanni, Chair Eni, S.p.A. USA

The following is the report from the student who just completed the internship and has been offered a position with Eni S.p.A. in Houston, Texas.

Armando Soto III SFS’18
Eni s.p.a

Having had the opportunity to work for Eni in Washington, through the partnership between the Italian Research Institute at Georgetown and the Italia Innovation Program, has provided me with an exceptional introduction to not only the energy industry — but also one of Italy’s most influential companies. At Eni, I found a group of people who were more than willing to sit down and discuss their professions with me and being able to explore my own interests further — namely the potential for natural gas and renewables in building a low-carbon economy — will be an invaluable asset toward my future career.

A One-Day Student-Centered Workshop on Innovative Solutions to Business Challenges

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The winning team of Zordan,’s challenge: Oluseyi Osobamiro, Melissa Zheng, Dante Esqueda & Caroline Cosovich, are scheduled to start  their two-week long internship in Italy in June and July and their one-week long internship in Woodways, Zordan, American company, in August.

The internship includes all expenses, including travel. This is a great experience the company is providing our talented students.

Eni, S.p.A. selected two winning teams: Peter Giannino, Robert Cesar, Sam Denney, Misha Rindisbacher & Christine Xiao, Alexander Jaros, Bryce Tsai, Parker Malarkey. Their internship will start in January 2019 since previous winners are working now at Eni’s Washington Office.

The John A. Hager memorial fellowship 2017 (new window)

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Georgetown University Italian Research Institute, in collaboration with the Italia Innovation Program, invites all College students to apply to the John A. Hager Memorial Fellowship for the one-month long Italia Innovation Summer Program in Italy.

Thanks to the generosity of Mr. Giulio Gianturco, a board member of the Georgetown University Italian Research Institute, for the second year, we are offering 2 John A. Hager Memorial Fellowships in the amount of $5,500 each to College students to enroll in the Italia Innovation Summer Program in Italy.

The cost for the four-week program this year is 5,000 euros which includes lodgings, breakfast, lunch Monday-Friday, and tuition. The roundtrip flight is excluded. However, we are pleased to announce that the Italia Innovation Program is offering a 1,000 euros reduction to each of the two John A. Hager Memorial Fellowship recipients. The cost is 4,000 euros.

The one-month long program provides a full-immersion learning experience in Italy focusing on unique entrepreneurial challenges.  Last summer two of our students were awarded the Fellowship and one of them, Caroline De Santis C’16, who enrolled in the program, has been offered a position as Communication & External Relations Manager with the Italia Innovation Program.

Caroline De Santis Offered a full-time position with italia innovation organization

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Caroline De Santis, one of our students who was awarded the John A. Hager Memorial Fellowship to participate in the One-month long Italia Innovation Summer Program in Italy on Business Innovations, has been offered a full-time position as Communications and External Relations Manager in Treviso, Italy. As a core member of the Italia Innovation Organization she will be responsible for the communication of the various initiatives they are developing, both in their Education division and in their New Ventures division. In addition, she will interact with the management of the partner companies that participate in the Innovation Program. Caroline and Neil Filosa were the two students who were awarded the John A. Hager Memorial Fellowship funded by John Hadjipateras, an Italian Institute board member and his wife, Darcy. Caroline and Neil had a fantastic and rewarding experience which has led to the offer of a full-time position for Caroline. She will start in her new position in February. The Italia Innovation Directors praised the talent and commitment of the Georgetown students and we hope this positive outcome will be of inspiration to many of our students seeking future positions.

Caroline DeSantis (c’16) and NEil Filosa (c’18) report on their experience at the Italia Innovation Summer Program in Italy

August 31, 2016

Neil Filosa C’18

The Italia Innovation Program was definitely enriching and enjoyable. The program directors brought in very knowledgeable faculty that taught us how to think like innovators. I now feel much more confident in my ability to generate new ideas that respond to consumer/societal needs, test them with prototypes, and then apply them in the real world.

I also gained a much stronger understanding in how Italian businesses operate and what their core values are (which I found to be family, tradition, and top quality) from the Italian business people that we interacted with throughout the program. There was a genuine give and take; we listened to the problems that they wanted us to work on, and then they in turn listened to our recommendations that we offered to them at the end of the program. I particularly enjoyed working on my company challenge for Rigoni di Asiago, where we helped the company expand and modernize its social media presence, better market its products to American consumers, and alter its flagship store so that it can be tested in New York City.

Finally, the program was so enjoyable because I now have friends from all over the world and it allowed me the freedom to travel on the weekends. I was able to see Treviso, Venice, Florence, Milan, and the foothills of the Alps. Thank you again for allowing me to have this wonderful experience. I learned a skill set that will definitely be of use in whatever field I pursue, and it was an experience that I will remember for the rest of my life.

Caroline DeSantis C’16

The Italia Innovation program was absolutely amazing.  There were so many moments where I had to pinch myself to remind me it was all real life.  Throughout my studies as an Italian student, I’ve grown to understand how special Italian culture is with its emphasis on beauty and creativity, but couldn’t see why amazing companies were not attracting mass popularity.  The Italia Innovation Program showed me how Italy understands its problems, and are making great efforts for sustainable growth.  It also has provided me with tools that will forever help me with my career (one in an Italian company I hope!).

The first week was a spectacular blur of meeting all the different companies.  Not only were the CEOs coming to propose the challenges for the participants, but there were also many round table discussions between the business leaders to give us a fuller understanding of what Italian businesses face.

The second week was the most challenging with Bill Burnett teaching us design thinking.  He forced us to think differently when we approach problems and his lessons will stay with me for the rest of my life.

The third week was an opportunity for us to really work on our challenges.  I worked on the United Colors of Benetton project which was a plan to help realign the brand, retail experience, and product.  The problem was particularly interesting because Benetton is a declining company.  My group got to go to the headquarters and meet with the creative director and marketing director several times.  It was particularly awesome that these major brand leaders were very interested in our point of views.

The highlight of the trip for me was Oasis Zegna, because I am particularly interested in fashion craftsmanship, so getting a tour of the archives and factory was a dream come true.  There was a sense in the air that what was getting made was special, which seems very uncommon in factory settings.  The trip to Oasis Zegna also gave us the opportunity to talk to more of the executives from Zegna, which was interesting because it taught me more about the different roles within a major fashion house.

Finally, the people who were a part of the Italia Innovation Programs were amazing.  I’ve made great friends that I hope to keep for the rest of my life.  Carlotta and Marco did an amazing job curating the people to make a dynamic group of young creative, which was a social setting I had never experienced before.

The Italia Innovation Program gave me amazing skills for my professional life and reaffirmed my commitment to working for an Italian company in the future.

Georgetown Students Awarded the John A. Hager Memorial Fellowship

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Five students, who participated in the Student Workshop on “Innovative Solutions to Business Challenges”, we sponsored in collaboration with the Italia Innovation Program Italia Innovation Program  applied to attend the One-Month Long Italia Innovation Summer Program in Italy. The program offers students a unique experience to work with Italian companies, leaders in renowned brands. The participating companies include brands from fashion, arts, design, food & wine, and high-end manufacturing. They will challenge students to lead the innovation of their business under the mentorship of faculty members from Stanford University, Columbia Law School, The Kellog School of Management and IDEO, as well as journalists. The cost of the program, including accommodations and several meals is 4,500 euros.

Two students were each awarded the $5,000 John A. Hager Memorial Fellowship donated and named by John Hadjipateras, a member of the Italian Research Institute, and his wife Darcy. Mr. & Mrs. Hadjipateras are the parents of Alex (C’01) Marina (C’06), Peter (C’12) and Costas (C’16). The recipients of the fellowship are: Caroline DeSantis (C’16), an Art History major and Italian minor, and Neil Filosa (C’18), an Economics major. The Italia Innovation Program is partnering with the Italian Research Institute and is offering Partial Tuition Scholarships to the students. The fellowship and the reduced tuition allows the two students to cover the expenses of the Italia Innovation Summer Program in Italy.