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A Caterpillar intern’s butterfly effect

This week’s Human of The Hilltop: Emma Knaup
Photo provided by Emma Knaup

A behavior. An attitude. An outlook on the community around you. It’s the small things in life that can have big impacts later on. For Emma Knaup, that small thing is helping others, and her impact has arrived in the form of recognizing her work.

Knaup, a senior advertising and public relations major, was recently named a WayUp Top 100 intern for her work at Caterpillar over the past two years as a Global Construction and Infrastructure (GCI) marketing communications intern.

WayUp is a job site that connects college students to internships and jobs through its annual National Intern Day and allows companies to apply for a prestigious Top 100 Internship Programs list.

With this honor, she joins a distinguished annual list determined by an expert panel and thousands of public votes–with a 70/30 split of influence, respectively–dedicated to highlighting students for commendable internship work.

However, a similar list where interns themselves could apply for recognition piqued Knaup’s interest. Through the judges’ vetting and her vigorous self-campaigning among friends and family, her acceptance was hard-earned and well-savored.

“It really meant a lot to me,” Knaup said. “I know I’ve worked hard, and I’ve definitely improved since when I first came to Bradley … Being able to be recognized for all the hard work that I’ve done for my internship is really exciting.”

Knaup’s summer internship work included social media management, campaign projects, trade shows and web page development, all done from her St. James apartment and occasional in-person duties at various facilities.

She found that the leverage from working in an office to working online was especially key to note in her application. Knaup said the internship has allowed her to build upon a passion for helping others.

“Some people don’t realize all the work Caterpillar does to benefit those in need, and I think that’s really cool to see how some of that blossoms just from a simple marketing campaign,” Knaup said. “You’re always trying to make a positive impact and make the company look good, but at the end of the day, you get to see the good things you’re doing … You work on all this stuff over the course of a few months, but in the end, you get to see all that hard work pay off.”

Knaup sees this trait as something that’s anchored her throughout her life, through the numerous community organizations she was a part of growing up and throughout high school, and something that’s taught her the essence of giving back.

“I think that’s so important, no matter where you work, whether it’s for a big corporation or a small non-profit,” she said. “I’ve seen that on all levels … from doing a simple community service project in high school to seeing the big donations that Caterpillar makes to different foundations … I always try to keep that in mind when I do all the work that I do.”

As tall as the wave that carried Knaup to her WayUp accolade is, the first ripples were found in a place away from a corporate environment.

“Back in high school I was in theater and choir, and I was super passionate about it,” Knaup said. “Not only did I get into the performing aspect of it that helped build my confidence … but I also got to see the creative side of the promotions that go into it.”

She attributes this experience to promoting her interest in communications.

“It definitely gave me a taste of what that career would be like in high school, and I didn’t even realize at the time that was a true career path,” Knaup said.

While she dreams of finding work placement within the arts, giving back to the industry that gave so much to her, Knaup has defined a more general goal in the lines of finding a comfortable career with challenges along the way.

As award-worthy as Knaup’s work is, there are many other Bradley students wishing to pave a path into an internship with the small thing of their own. To this, she advised pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone, building confidence as you go along, applying even if you don’t feel good enough and having an openness to new tasks. But a simple truth laid at the bottom of it all:

“Just do it. I know it’s easier said than done, but just try.”

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