Feature Story

Living the Dream

January 29, 2015 – by Pam Besel

Mural in West Philadelphia called “Lemonade Street” (Photo courtesy of Nicole Nitti ’16)

Exploring the city: Nicole Nitti ’16 in front of Independence Hall in the Old City neighborhood of Philadelphia. (Photo courtesy of Nicole Nitti ’16)

The Philadelphia Center connects Ohio Wesleyan students to ‘real world’ experiences

Nicole Nitti ’16 found more than she could ever have imagined after arriving at The Philadelphia Center (TPC) last August.

“I realized pretty quickly that staying within my comfort zone simply wouldn’t be an option.” But the Ohio Wesleyan management economics major from New Jersey wanted to challenge herself—to attain off-campus work experience and “see what I liked and didn’t like.”

The decision to live in Philly for a four-month period was an easy one. “I thrive in cities and was in my element,” she says.

Nitti admits, however, it was somewhat intimidating to find a place to live, roommates with whom to share expenses, and an internship that suited her interests in marketing and branding work. But she, like the more than 500 OWU students before her who participated in the TPC internship program, did more than simply survive in Philadelphia. She thrived.

TPC program participants en masse. (Photo courtesy of Nicole Nitti ’16)

OWU’s Department of Economics and the Woltemade Center for Economics, Business and Entrepreneurship have had a relationship with TPC since 1967. Students from Great Lakes Colleges Association (GLCA) universities, regardless of academic majors, are eligible to participate in the semester-long program. Once they are settled in and find housing and internships with some help from the center, students maintain a four-day, 32-hour work week.

Friendship Arch, around the corner from Nitti’s apartment in Chinatown. (Photo courtesy of Nicole Nitti ’16)

Nitti, who lived in an apartment in Chinatown, found her internship with a small boutique branding agency close to home, called Paragraph Inc. While there, Nitti worked alongside the agency’s founder/principal, its account and studio managers, and its graphics designer.

“I felt like a valuable part of the team,” she says, describing the social media, market research, writing, and targeted messaging work she did for clients. She also sat in on phone interviews and learned to create client reports using search-engine operations.

“Through my experiences, my interest in marketing and branding was solidified,” she says. The internship was, however, just a segment of the overall TPC program.

Nitti was assigned to a seminar professor (students met weekly for seminar discussions) for whom Nitti prepared a portfolio of her daily reflections as well as internship goals.

She also was asked to select and write about her city objectives. Nitti familiarized herself with the museums, neighborhoods, and culture of Philadelphia on foot or by way of the subway and bus systems.

What impressed her most—besides the amazing cuisine she experienced during the city’s celebrated Restaurant Week—were the public murals adorning the city’s streets.

“Known as the Mural Capital of the World, Philly is home to more than 3,000 murals funded by the Mural Arts Program,” says Nitti.

Each one tells a story. Nitti describes how she was taken by the way the art is “seamlessly embedded in the fabric of the city and how the murals can transform neighborhoods and the residents who inhabit them.”

Mural in West Philadelphia called “Lemonade Street” (Photo courtesy of Nicole Nitti ’16)

As part of Nitti’s portfolio, she submitted photos of the murals and reflections about her observations, as well as more comprehensive thoughts about her entire experience with the Philadelphia program.

“I never stopped learning in Philadelphia,” says Nitti. “I realized that education can take place in many contexts and that my journey becomes so much more meaningful when I can integrate my classroom, internship, and city living experiences.”