Athletics have always played a major role in Melanie Marotta's life. Although this fall will mark her final season as a member of the VCU Field Hockey Team, Marotta doesn't believe it will be last time sports shape her life's direction. After spending 11 weeks as an intern for the top athletic apparel company in the world, an inspired Marotta has a heightened interest in the possibilities of a career in sports when her playing days come to an end.

An accounting major, Marotta received an opportunity many college students dream about when Nike offered her one of its prestigious internships this summer. Marotta spent nearly three months at Nike's corporate headquarters in Beaverton, Ore. after she was awarded one of just 150 internships available to the thousands of undergraduate and graduate students who apply.

Marotta first learned about the opportunity when Nike representatives dined at Paul's Deli, a local restaurant in Williamsburg, Va. where she works during the offseason. Marotta struck up a conversation with the Nike reps, who recommended the company's internship program. Afterwards, Marotta stayed in contact and as a result, was able to pursue the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with the athletic giant.

While at Nike, Marotta served as a sports marketing intern, specifically for NFL and college football. Her responsibilities included placing comp orders for products, working on a finance budget project and teaming with eight other interns on a group project.

Marotta is known for her hard work both on the field and in the classroom and carried that reputation with her to Beaverton. As part of the program, interns are divided into groups of 8-10 and are assigned a project for the summer. At the end of the 12-week program, the group with the best project presents their findings to Nike executives, including CEO Phil Knight. True to form, Marotta's group won the competition.

Even though her summer at Nike is over, Marotta still keeps in contact with the representative she worked for. She says the internship helped her realize that she wants to continue a career in sports after she graduates, preferably with Nike.

"I love the way they balance work and life at Nike," Marotta said. "This internship was one of the best experiences I have ever had. I learned so much while I was there. I'm forever grateful for the opportunity they gave me."

Marotta says her story is an example why students should understand the importance of networking, and why they shouldn't afraid to pursue opportunities they believe are out of reach.

"The internship was hard work, but I would recommend the experience to anyone," she said. "Internships and networking I think is something that's very important for future careers."

Written by Annmarie Cole, Graduate Assistant in the VCU Athletic Communications Office