Indiana State University alumna Brittany Jones didn’t know what to expect when she learned that she would be working with Clabber Girl employees as part of a class project her junior year.
She never could have guessed that two years later she’d be working on some of the same projects she created while in that Indiana State course, only now as a full-time employee of the company.
Jones, who graduated from Indiana State in 2012 and is the purchasing and inventory control coordinator for the international foods manufacturer based in Terre Haute, worked with Clabber Girl on projects that implemented lessons from her supply chain operations class. The company headquartered across the street from Hulman Center and 15-hundredths of a mile from the Scott College of Business boasts partnerships with ISU students, professors and athletic teams. Current Indiana State students work on projects and intern for the company, while Clabber Girl employees from entry level positions to the company president boast degrees from Indiana State.
“It was perfect, because instead of having to get a resume out there and hope someone notices something and get an interview, all the things I did here at Clabber Girl as a student was all that for me,” Jones said. “It was better because it wasn’t a piece of paper.”
It is a partnership that has developed between neighbors with mutually beneficial interests that could have been tailored for one another.
Brittany Jones’s class project first started when Indiana State instructor Ken Jones first noticed Clabber Girl’s Terre Haute headquarters while driving to the Scott College for a job interview in the fall of 2010. Ken Jones, who is not related to Brittany Jones, met with Clabber Girl president Gary Morris to discuss the potential of students working with company on projects.
That spring, students in Ken Jones’s classes completed several projects at Clabber Girl. One group of students worked on the company’s packaging line for its Royal® gelatin product. That work helped the students become green belt certified in Lean Six Sigma, an industry-recognized method for problem solving and continuous improvement.
A group of students that included Brittany Jones diagrammed the process flow chart of Clabber Girl’s retail baking powder line. The diagram explains how each of Clabber Girl’s departments fits in the process.
She also created a supplier scorecard system for the company, which the company embraced. After her class ended, she interned for the company and continued to build on several initial projects. Following graduation from Indiana State, she began to work full-time.
“Doing student work here, I was very empowered,” Brittany Jones said. “Everyone was just like ‘Your idea is great. Let’s run with it.’ They liked what I did as a student, and transitioned some of that into what I do now. Some of the projects I built actually are fully incorporated into the business now, and I continue to do those.”
The Clabber Girl employees even teach the students; Chris Weber, roast master for Clabber Girl, has taught the students about the company’s global supply chain for its Rex coffee.
“That’s been very great for the students,” Ken Jones said. “It’s really helped their understanding of even the simplest thing that we consume every day can come from a deep and complex supply chain.”
Chuck Shotts, Jr., an engineering technician and 22-year veteran with the company, serves as a mentor to two interns who are current ISU mechanical engineering technology students. Their work has included building and repairing mechanical equipment to smaller projects involving wiring, electrical work and piping.
“You’re all over the place. You never know what you’re going to be doing, which is the neat thing about it,” Shotts said. “You’re never going to be bored.”
Shotts refers to the current interns, seniors Tyler Bishop of Marshall, Ill., and Dolcey Schultz of Montezuma, Ind., as his “third hands.” Bishop provides extra muscle at times when heavier items need multiple people to lift them, while Schultz can fit into tighter spaces that Shotts or Bishop cannot reach.
“It’s more hands-on than I thought it would be, which I like,” Schultz said of her internship at Clabber Girl. “I’m not one to sit behind a computer all the time. I’d rather be hands-on.”
The company doesn’t shy away from having the students work on projects from when they first begin their internships. When Bishop started, the company had shut down some equipment so that maintenance could be done. He immediately joined in to support the effort.
“It really opens your eyes in what goes on behind the scenes at these kinds of facilities, because there were a ton of changes going on right when I started,” Bishop said. “I was thrown in the fire a little bit, but that’s the way I like it … and that’s the way I’ve learned best.
Shotts also takes advantage of the interns’ education, as they can provide a different perspective.
“I learn quite a bit from what they’re exposed to in their schooling,” Shotts said. “I can learn some of what they know [from them].”
Clabber Girl has hosted interns from Indiana State in a variety of departments across the company, including purchasing, engineering, accounting and public relations, Clabber Girl president Gary Morris said. More students also work part-time in the company’s bake shop café.
“It fills a gap for us in project work,” said Morris, who graduated from Indiana State in 1975 with a bachelor’s degree in recreation and is a member of the ISU Foundation board of directors. “That gives us an opportunity to get some outside eyes on a project and some smart kids to work on some of the tasks that our folks are always too busy to do.”
Company officials are proud of how they provide experiential learning opportunities for students and give back to their alma mater. Teresa Shaffer, Clabber Girl’s director of public relations and corporate communications who graduated from Indiana State in 1991 with a bachelor’s in public relations, enjoys collaborating with interns, who get to work on many of the company’s public relations projects.
“We do a lot in the public relations department with a very small staff,” Shaffer said, “I’m able to take some really energetic, great, creative people from the department of communications and public relations [at ISU] and put all of that creativity and energy to good use in my department, from doing museum tours to helping plan and coordinate events.”
The company also has filled in a variety of roles for Indiana State. Clabber Girl is a major sponsor of ISU athletics. On Homecoming weekend, Clabber Girl hosts the designated walkers for breakfast and rest breaks who provide support to people participating in The Walk from campus to the football stadium.
“We’ve developed a rapport and a communication line with the university so when there’s something that appears to be synergistic, there’s a good line of communication to figure it out,” Morris said. “Once you do one project, like with Ken Jones, it opens the door for other opportunities and discussion, and for other professors and departments to get involved, and it just spreads very easily.”
The experiential learning opportunities provided and emphasized by Indiana State are extremely beneficial, Morris said. While they existed for him as a student, they weren’t as much of a focus as they are today, he added.
“Most people don’t appreciate how significant it is to have those types of institutions in our community,” Morris said. “It is a tremendous asset for everybody who lives here and for all of our businesses.”
Austin Arceo is the assistant director of media relations.