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Alumni Mentors Lead to Eli Lilly Jobs

Jonathan Silva-Melendez ’24 is one of Wabash’s most outgoing and outspoken campus leaders. The DEI advocate loves pushing boundaries and is often found taking charge of the room, empowering his peers to be better.

Going into his internship this past summer, he worried that energy might not be embraced at one of the largest pharmaceutical research and development companies in the world.

Champ McCorkle ’24 (middle), a financial mathematics and philosophy double major from Greenwood, Indiana, worked as a finance intern. “The opportunity to improve and save lives while working in finance was something I did not think was possible,” he said, “until I came to Lilly.”

“I felt intimidated,” Silva-Melendez recalled, “like I needed to shy away from who I am and play it safe.”

He quickly realized, however, that his drive and ideas were not only welcomed, they were celebrated.

“Every person I got the opportunity to work with from the start said, ‘No, be yourself! If you have questions, we have answers,’” Silva-Melendez said. “They encouraged me to be my authentic self, to tap into my natural curiosity and use it as an asset.”

Silva-Melendez was one of five Wabash students who interned at Eli Lilly and Company. Along with Jacob Maldonado ’24, Champ McCorkle ’24, Edreece Redmond ’24, and Turner Royal ’24, he completed a 10-week internship at the company’s headquarters in Indianapolis.

After connecting with the company at an event hosted by Wabash’s Career Services, Silva-Melendez, a PPE and Hispanic studies double major from Calumet City, Illinois, spent his summer working as a marketing intern.

His goals included furthering his understanding of the role marketing plays in the pharmaceutical business and strengthening his communication, teamwork, and networking skills.

“I always wanted to go into marketing. This was the perfect opportunity to see if I want to do this for the rest of my life,” said Silva-Melendez, who’s responsibilities included organizing an event designed to train sales representatives on how to sell Lilly products.

“The biggest thing I gained from my experiences this summer was confidence,” he said. “I’m no longer scared to ask questions when I don’t understand something or share my ideas and contribute to big projects.”

Impressed by his efforts, Eli Lilly offered the Wabash senior a full-time job after graduation. He proudly accepted.

“When I arrived to the States 11 years ago, I could have never imagined all the amazing things that have occurred in my life,” explained Silva-Melendez, who was born in Nicaragua. “My mom made a lot of sacrifices coming to this country, not knowing the language, while my dad stayed behind in Nicaragua to work and support us. Now I am about to graduate and already have a job—it feels like my family’s sacrifices for a better life are paying off.”

Many students have followed in the footsteps of a long line of Wabash alumni who have pursued careers at Eli Lilly and Company.

Between 2017 and 2023, 14 graduates reported Eli Lilly as their first destination. Additionally, there were a total of 122 Handshake applications for both full-time and internship positions in the last four years.

Jacob Maldonado ’24 (middle, far left) a Spanish major and art minor from Griffith, Indiana, worked as a marketing intern with Lilly Patient Services’ customer engagement team.

“We’re extremely grateful for our partnership with Lilly, knowing our grads have the opportunity to build outstanding careers, including many who go on to earn advanced degrees or experience professional growth within the organization,” said Cassie Hagan, director of professional development and the Center for Innovation, Business, and Entrepreneurship (CIBE).

“When we look at the careers of our many alumni who join Lilly over the decades,” she said, “it’s certainly an opportunity that I hope future Wabash men will seriously consider.”

In many cases, as Isaac Myers ’21 explained, the connection between an internship and job at Eli Lilly often starts early after a student takes advantage of one of the many collaborative networking events hosted by Career Services.

Myers, a marketing associate, was one of six alumni who visited campus as part of Eli Lilly’s annual recruitment kick-off dinner. He joined the company in 2021 after interning his junior year with the diabetes connected care team.

“This event holds a special place in my heart,” said Myers who majored in religion. “It was at this dinner, six years ago when I was 18, that I decided Lilly was the place where I wanted to be.

“The first thing that stood out to me then was the fact employees worked here for 10, 15, 20 years. I knew that was incredibly rare. The second thing was everyone I talked to was able to so strongly associate the things that they’re passionate about with the work that they got to do,” he continued. “Lilly is an incredibly exciting, special place and I’m thankful I took advantage of this opportunity (going to kick-off dinner) and now get to work at this growing company.”

Kip Chase ’03 is the senior vice president of human resources for Lilly’s Pharma Business Units and Lilly USA and has been with the company for 20 years. He first interned while he was a student at Wabash, and was then offered a full-time job at the company in 2003 as a sales representative.

“Wabash students thrive at Lilly because they were taught how to become comfortable walking into different environments, how to be curious,” Chase said. “When Wabash students come to Lilly, they know how to be a team player, a contributor, and a leader. They know how to be given a project that is ambiguous, and to take an approach that asks, ‘How do I bring order to it and ultimately solutions?’”

Chase, National Association of Wabash Men (NAWM) past president, said there’s a rich history between Eli Lilly and Wabash. That history includes the first CEO of the company that was not a Lilly family member, Eugene Beesley [W1929].

“As an alumnus, I am fortunate I get to carry on that tradition and help the next generation of students connect to the company,” he said. “There were a handful of alumni who did that for me when I was in their (current students’) shoes, now I get the opportunity to repay the favor.”

Hagan said she is constantly amazed by the large number of alumni who return to campus each year to connect with students. These employees host recruiting activities, review applications, conduct interviews for marketing and finance internships, and speak about their own experiences with Eli Lilly.

“We’re grateful that these alumni are willing to hold the doors open for the next class of Wabash men, welcome them to Lilly, and share that opportunity for success,” she said. “As recruiting partnerships go, Lilly is the gold standard for brand recognition and reputation on this campus, and we hope to continue the tradition for years to come.”

Edreece Redmond ’24 (left), a psychology major and business minor from Indianapolis, worked as a human resources (HR) intern. “My goal was to have a better sense of what kind of company I can see myself working for,” he said. “I also wanted to broaden my network and continue to meet new people and open new doors.”

Another new, soon-to-be employee to the Eli Lilly team is Royal, an economics major and psychology and philosophy double-minor from Bloomfield, Indiana. He worked his past summer as a finance intern with Global Manufacturing Finance’s product costing team.

As an intern, Royal was responsible for creating a program that allows the product costing team to check if the Lilly manufacturing sites are following the correct policies during the costing process each year.

“I didn’t really have the finance or accounting background going in that I thought I would need,” the senior explained. “As I went through the internship, I learned that what I needed and had to be successful was communication skills and a positive attitude. Being able to talk and listen, to go in every day eager to ask questions and take input from others was crucial. … I worked in finance, but it felt more like I was working in talking to people, and I thought that was super cool.”

Thanks to his internship and time spent at Wabash, Royal said he feels confident and prepared to work as a financial analyst at Eli Lilly after graduation.

“It’s very exciting,” Royal said. “My internship mentors, Jon Haug ’00 (senior vice president and CFO of global manufacturing and quality) and so many other senior director-level representatives of Eli Lilly have reached out to congratulate me. I feel so welcomed and blessed to join so many other Wabash men and be a part of the team.”