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NDTO News Article

Students Help Drive North Dakota’s Global Commerce

Eight North Dakota State University (NDSU) graduate students are currently assisting North Dakota’s global business through the Export Assistant Program.  The initiative, now in its eighth year, places talented graduate students in export companies that need assistance in moving their global business forward.

The goal of the Export Assistant Program is twofold:  1.) To provide the next generation of global business professionals with real-world business and a modest paycheck, and 2.) To provide North Dakota businesses with a valuable resource devoted to their global expansion – talented students with fresh ideas and strategies.

Export Assistants (E.A.’s) work up to 40 hours per week and provide quality help without a hefty price tag – they earn $12 per hour, of which the company pays half.   Students are placed based on the needs of participating companies and the skill sets of students who can best meet these needs.  Many E.A.’s are bilingual and have significant business experience in high-demand foreign markets.

Benefits to Export Assistants include:

  • Earning a paycheck
  • Gaining valuable work experience related to their graduate studies
  • Earning college credit and tuition assistance
  • Making professional global business connections

The program has turned out numerous success stories.  Vineet Saxena was the first to participate in the program when he came to North Dakota from India to further his education at NDSU.  In December 2006, the program connected him with Tom Shorma, president and CEO of Wahpeton-based WCCO Belting, Inc, a leading manufacturer of specialized rubber conveyor belting for both industrial and agricultural markets.  When Saxena graduated from NDSU in 2007, Shorma hired him on as Executive Vice President, a position he still holds today.

Yuliya Sapelnikova, a former Minnesota State University Moorhead (MSUM) student from Russia, was placed with the North Dakota District Export Council where she served as the organization’s export assistant from 2010-2011.  During her tenure, Sapelnikova worked primarily with Heather Ranck at the US Commercial Service office in Fargo, assisting North Dakota commercial companies with their international business.  Today, Sapelnikova works as International Logistics Coordinator at Daktronics in Brookings, SD.

Former E.A., Rodrigo Cintra, went on to work for the UND Center for Innovation and now owns his own global organization; Timur Mustafayev from Turkey worked as an E.A. for NDTO and now has a full-time position at RDO; Changmin Kim from Korea worked as an E.A. for Circle C Seeds and recently took a position with Cargill.  Nearly every Export Assistant has been recruited to work full time to assist in expanding North Dakota’s international presence.

If you are a company or student interested in the Export Assistant Program, contact Mark Johnson at