This summer, Perry Fennell ’15 experienced firsthand what it’s like to work in a corporate public affairs office when he interned for the nation’s largest wine, beer and spirits retailer, Total Wine & More.
With guidance from HWS Trustee Edward R. Cooper ’86, P’16, Total Wine & More vice president of public affairs and community relations, Fennell was assigned to several key projects during his internship, including one focused on in-depth community research of local laws that may affect beverage retailing.
“The public affairs team was extremely friendly and accommodating to me as an intern,” Fennell says. “Ed Cooper took me under his wing from the get-go, and really spent the time to explain things to me and show me how to handle all the moving pieces he deals with to maintain a good relationship with the community on a daily basis. When I wasn’t sitting in on conference calls, I was helping other members of the public affairs team with the company’s public relations, corporate philanthropy, community relations outreach and corporate social responsibility efforts.”
As a public affairs intern, Fennell says he’s had the opportunity to learn about the regulatory and policy changes that can influence large retailers like Total Wine & More. With nearly 100 locations in 16 states across the country, Total Wine & More is an independent retailer, typically carrying more than 8,000 wines from every wine-producing region at its stores.
Fennell, whose internship took place in Potomac, Md., says that on a professional level, the experience has been invaluable.
“My primary responsibility was to track changes in legislation and to conduct research about what is and is not permissible in each state or market in which we operate,” Fennell says. “My first project was to update a document that verifies different state regulations on wine, beer and spirit sampling within private retail stores. Sampling products is extremely important to the success of the business because it’s a key vehicle used to familiarize patrons with the great variety of products we choose to stock our shelves.”
In light of the internship, Cooper says Fennell delivered high on the expectations set for the five key elements of the Total Wine & More public affairs department: public relations and corporate communications; local and state legislation, regulatory and political affairs; community relations; corporate philanthropy; and corporate social responsibility.
“Perry brought a fresh perspective on all of those elements, and at the end of the internship he had learned quite a bit about what comprises a public affairs department at a major company,” Cooper says. He also says Fennell’s efforts will make a direct impact on enhancing the customer experience.
Cooper says he was particularly impressed by the research skills and analytical abilities Fennell brought to the table thanks to the education he’s receiving at the Colleges. “This was an opportunity for Perry to be able to use what he’s learned in an academic setting right at a large national retailer,” Cooper says.
Fennell says his experiences at HWS helped to build a solid foundation for his work as an intern for Total Wine & More. “More than anything, I feel as though HWS has given me the confidence to jump right in and tackle the challenges I’ve been presented head on,” Fennell says. “Also, working in a professional environment, I have found myself in a number of situations requiring my ability to convey my thoughts in a clear and concise manner. The liberal arts education I have received from HWS has allowed me to be adaptable and comfortable in these types of situations.”
At HWS, Fennell is an environmental studies and economics double major. He is an Eco-Rep on campus, the secretary of the Delta Chi Fraternity, and the vice president of the newly founded HWS Fishing Club. He intends to travel to South America in spring 2014 to study abroad in Ecuador and Peru.
Cooper says working with students like Fennell and finding ways to connect them with great internship opportunities is just one example of the many ways to give back to the Colleges.
As a dedicated alum, a parent of current HWS student, Hannah Cooper ’16, and as an HWS Trustee, Cooper says that sustaining the Colleges comes from being an active and involved member of the HWS community.
“Whether it’s your time, talent or treasure, there are ways to be active in the HWS community,” Cooper says. “Those who truly got the most from their HWS experience must pay it forward – when they are able – and return their love of the Colleges by providing internships, externships, connecting through volunteer work, donating to the Annual Fund and remaining active and involved alums.”