Haslam Prepares Alum for Year Working Abroad, Future Job with Computer Giant

Afte doing an internship in London during Covid and earning her degree in Supply Chain Management, Amy Poffenberger (HCB, ’23) is spending a year teaching in Spain before beginning her job with Dell.

February 28, 2024

As Amy Poffenberger’s (HCB, ’23) time in high school began to wrap up, she wasn’t sure where she wanted to attend college. That was until she visited the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

“From the day I stepped foot on UT’s campus, I said, ‘This is it,’” Poffenberger recalls. “It just felt right. And everything kind of fell into place from there.”

The Cincinnatian entered UT as business exploratory, taking classes with UT’s Haslam College of Business. She became involved in some clubs early on, including a supply chain student organization. She was immediately drawn to that discipline as a major.

“Supply chain is such a big umbrella term, and there is so much that you can do within this space,” Poffenberger says. “I knew I would never be bored with a supply chain degree.”

Having found her college and her major by her sophomore year, there was just one more thing Poffenberger wanted: to secure an internship abroad. However, COVID-19 threatened her plans.

International Internship in Uncertain Times

Intense uncertainty surrounded international travel in 2021, even more so for extended work stays. In the upheaval, Haslam’s International Programs and Study Abroad (IPSA) staff labored to place students in international internships where health and safety standards could be maintained. They succeeded, albeit with some altered destinations.

“I was originally supposed to go to Prague, and a lot of us got redirected to London, but I was grateful that we were allowed to go at all,” Poffenberger says. “It was such an amazing experience.”

Poffenberger worked in operations and marketing for a small fashion company, and she found the experience valuable. She felt the more intimate work setting was refreshing and offered greater transparency, good personal connections and easier communications. This time in London left her with a desire to live and work abroad for a longer interval.

A College Career Reflecting the Volunteer Creed

At Haslam, Poffenberger excelled academically while participating in several co-curricular activities while also working in Haslam’s Business Communication Studio as a lead peer communication consultant.

Melissa Grant, professional development coordinator and Poffenberger’s supervisor in the studio, said Poffenberger stood out as committed to excellence, and her dedication to others aligned with the Volunteer Creed of shadowing oneself to give light to others.

“Amy demonstrated a commitment to helping other students not because it was required, but because leadership and helping others is deeply ingrained in her character,” Grant says. “Amy always proved to be a self-directed student who naturally gravitated toward doing what was right, an exceptional reflection of integrity.”

As a result of her superlative qualities and academic accomplishments, Poffenberger earned an internship with Dell, the computer technology powerhouse, during her senior year. Her performance in the internship led to a job offer before commencement.

Making All Goals a Reality

Poffenberger had exciting post-graduation travel plans, but her job offer from Dell posed a conflict. The company brings in new employee cohorts each June, with no exceptions. While she was excited to work for Dell, Poffenberger still wanted to achieve her travel dreams. She decided to ask Dell for a year’s delay.

“I asked and they said, yes, that they would postpone my offer for a year,” she remembers. “It was unheard of that a company of that size would do that.”

As Sara M. Easler, assistant dean for International Programs and Partnerships, describes it, Poffenberger’s interaction with Dell is characteristic of her participation in her internship and in the classroom, where the two came to know one another best.

Amy has consistently shown a passion and determination for international business and cross-culture challenges,” Easler says. “From taking an internship abroad during a time of high uncertainty and COVID restrictions to courageously asking her employer for a start-date extension so she could live abroad for a year, she has shown how important and significant these experiences are to her. I’m very proud of all that she’s accomplished!”

From Gap Year to Career

Poffenberger quickly took advantage of her gap year. She went to work in Alaska for a month before traveling to Spain for a job as an English language teaching assistant.

Her time in Spain will end in late May, and then Poffenberger must resettle quickly in Nashville to begin her job in Dell’s three-year Supply Chain Development Program, where she will spend a year each in procurement, operations and logistics. With a minor in sustainability, Poffenberger eventually wants to find a way to combine her interest in supply chain and her passion for sustainability.

The Haslam Factor

Poffenberger credits Haslam with enabling her to gain exposure to different companies, cultures and industry professionals.

“My time as a part of all these different organizations was instrumental in helping me secure this position,” she says.

Reflecting on her journey, Poffenberger offers some advice for current and prospective Haslam students.

“Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want, because the worst thing that can happen is that somebody could say is no,” she says. “Also, seek out new and interesting opportunities, even if they are not the most relevant to what you’re doing. Every opportunity can offer you a new perspective or new path.”


Scott McNutt, business writer/publicist, rmcnutt4@utk.edu