Alumna ventures into the unknown

Hannah Mills, ME’16, couldn’t imagine herself overseeing a production line or sitting in an office cubicle.

Mills turned down a job offer for a chance at the unknown, and she found it with Venture for America (VFA), a non-profit that connects recent college graduates with start-up companies. This summer she went to training camp at Brown University in Providence, R.I., before being paired with a company.

“I’m looking at this with a wide-open perspective,” Mills says. “No matter where I end up, I’ll learn skills that will allow me to pursue anything.”

If it’s like her college career, it could be anything during her two-year fellowship. Mills was a preview, registration and orientation (PRO) leader and coordinator, a teaching assistant in the machine shop, and studied abroad in Italy. She held an internship with Hussmann and a co-op with Emerson Process Management, and played on the Miner Threat ultimate Frisbee team. And she had a minor in art. No wonder she was S&T’s 2016 Renaissance Student Award winner.

Her experience and education allowed her to match up favorably with graduates from Harvard, Duke, Yale and Princeton when it came to Venture for America’s selection day — a full day of individual and group interviews. About 18 percent of candidates earn fellowships, says Venture for America talent associate Madeleine Stanley.

“They told us to be our authentic selves,” Mills says. “I kind of forgot the judges were even in the room during the interview. Presenting myself for the way that I am was a huge factor in being selected.”

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