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Campbell Clark and Shawn Hollopeter

Connecting with mentor opens the door for OSU student’s internship

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

One day, Campbell Clark hopes to meet Shawn Hollopeter in person and buy him lunch. After all, that’s the least he could do for the mentor who has changed his life.

Clark, an Oklahoma State University finance major, and Hollopeter were paired in the Spears School of Business Mentoring Program in 2020. Clark says the OSU alumnus has been a difference-maker in ways he never imagined even though all their interaction was virtual.

Clark was attending a career fair on OSU’s Stillwater campus in early 2020 — one of the last in-person events before the coronavirus pandemic forced everything to go virtual — and happened to drop Hollopeter’s name into a conversation with a representative from Sandia National Laboratories, one of three National Nuclear Security Administration research and development laboratories in the United States. Hollopeter’s first job after leaving OSU with two degrees was with Sandia, where he spent nearly three years before moving on in 2016.

“Mark Rule, the Sandia rep who I was talking with, said, ‘Yeah, I remember Shawn. We used to call him the mayor because he was known around Sandia for getting things done,’” Clark said.

Rule invited Clark to a career discussion with Sandia the next morning. That led to further conversations with a handful of other Sandia employees over the next few months, eventually leading to Clark applying for one of the most prestigious defense contractor internships in the United States.

He had already applied — and been rejected —for internships with other defense contractors, and he didn’t know what to expect when applying at Sandia. But at Sandia, Hollopeter’s connection at Sandia opened the door for him, but Clark strode through it masterfully during the interview process, eventually becoming one of only about 20 students from across the nation selected for this summer’s Sandia’s Mission Services Talent Acquisition Team (MSTAT) Intern Program in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

“I feel incredibly fortunate, despite a pandemic and denial from almost every single major defense contractor, that through my mentor, Shawn, as well as other experiences during my time at OSU, I managed to get an internship at one of the most competitive and renowned nuclear research facilities in the country,” said Clark. While he was originally told he’d spend the summer at the Sandia complex in New Mexico, it turns out his internship will be virtual.

Clark has had three different mentors during his four years at OSU and believes so much in the program that he could be a spokesman. Many Spears Business grads like Hollopeter (bachelor’s degree in economics, 2011, and MBA, 2013) volunteer to assist current students. During the 2020-21 school year, 200 OSU business students were mentored by 195 business professionals.

“Shawn was a tremendous help to me. I maxed out the time I was with Shawn,” said Clark, who will graduate in December. “He was always an encouragement. He was always willing to give me advice, both school-wise and career-wise, and he was always very eager to connect me within his network.

“Getting connected with Shawn kind of opened a window to the world of defense contracting for me, and allowed me to hear about what his work is like, and kind of helped confirm that that’s the field that I’d potentially be interested in.”

And Hollopeter says Clark isn’t the only one who benefited from the relationship.

“Having Campbell as a protégé was a fantastic experience,” said Hollopeter, who is now with Northrop Grumman in Oklahoma City. “Not only was it great to be able to talk about what was going on at OSU or business professors we shared, but he also helped me to reflect on my own job. Talking about what you do every day and how you got to that point is certainly enjoyable to share, but it was also a way to reflect on my own career.

“One thing that really made Campbell stand out was how well he would follow up on items we would discuss during our calls. He would ask a question related to defense contracting and I would suggest something that he go research — and the next time we talked, he’d have three more well-thought-out follow-up questions. That really made me feel like I was able to add value.”

Clark swears by the program, and not just because he benefited from name-dropping during his meeting with Sandia. Clark and Hollopeter were paired together during the spring and fall semesters of 2020 (the Spears Mentorship Program allows a mentor and mentee to be paired up for two semesters before being assigned a new person).

“I think anyone can benefit from the mentoring program,” he said. “You never know if you’re going to get matched with someone who matches your interest, like I was with Shawn. I think it truly helps lets you know whether that’s a profession you’re going to be successful at in the future. There’s someone who knows the industry inside and out, they have practical, real-life experience, they help mentor you, they encourage you, and that’s what Shawn did for me.”

Visit the Mentorship Program website to learn how you can participate at okla.st/spmentor.

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