Savana Kate Schwanda

CofC Honors student Savana Kate Schwanda (Photo by Mike Ledford)

As the South Carolina economy continues grow, so to do the internship opportunities for College of Charleston students. Case in point: Savana Kate Schwanda, an Honors systems engineering major who interned at REI Automation, a company in Columbia, South Carolina, that designs and builds manufacturing automation equipment.

“We try to give the intern an experience that they understand how the business operates,” REI President Grant Phillips says. “We try to give them exposure to all the different engineering disciplines and the business disciplines, so they have an understanding of how the business works.”

The company also gives interns a project they can complete. For Schwanda, that meant improving the process of a new assembly line.

“I’ve gotten involved in creating this assembly line for this machine, figuring out what works and what doesn’t,” says the recipient of the Engineering Scholarship, Shalosky Family Engineering Leadership Scholarship and the College of Charleston Foundation Scholarship. “So, with a lot of trial and error, we’ve been able to streamline most of it. And so we’re creating a new process this company hasn’t seen before.

CofC systems engineering major Savana Kate Schwanda (Photo by Mike Ledford)

“At this internship, I was terrified that I wasn’t going to know how to do anything,” she adds. “But once I got here, they showed me everything I needed to know. I was able to collaborate with them. They showed me how to wire, they showed me how to read schematics and put parts together and read off the drawings. And so, with that collaboration, I can bring my systems engineering knowledge to the table.”

Her advice to other students thinking about doing an internship: Network with professors to find them, and don’t be scared of the title because you’ll learn along the way. People at companies that offer internships are very supportive.

People like Phillips, who couldn’t be happier with the students from the College.

“We try to give the opportunity for a student to work on a project from beginning to end, and completing a project – and we think that gives great experience for the summer intern to have an understanding of what we do at REI Automation, what working in industry is like,” he says. “And we get the project completed by very capable students from the College of Charleston.”