Who: Colleen Dommel, 2020 food science and technology alumna
How it happened: After a Hershey recruiter presented to the VT Food Science Club, Dommel sent him her resume. Her double major in Spanish (Hershey has plants in Mexico) and her ability to explain projects she’d worked on led to an offer for an on-site work co-op that lasted through two semesters.
What she did: Dommel’s paid co-op was in the continuous improvement department at Hershey, which enhances profit margins by testing small formula changes — say, using a less expensive sugar supplier. She spearheaded the process of swapping out a candy bar ingredient that saved Hershey over $1.5 million. “I was actually doing things that really impacted the company,” she said. Coming back to Virginia Tech, she breezed through classes in food chemistry, quality assurance, and product development because of the skills she learned at Hershey. “I could be sitting in food chem, and we’d be talking about sugar crystallization, and I’m like, ‘Oh, I made toffee. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.’”
What came next: As Dommel’s co-op was ending, her manager offered to make a position specifically for her. “I told them that I had a full calendar year of school left,” she said, “and they were like, ‘No problem, we’ll hold the position for you.’ That made me feel really good.” Now she’s a food technologist at Hershey — and she’s the one recruiting students for co-ops. (Yes, there is candy everywhere at Hershey. Unfortunately, there is no chocolate river.)