Creating an awesome work environment Pursuing opportunities for diversification and growth By Tom Hermanek III January 17, 2020

Nelnet Pathway Interns Experience Meaningful Mentorship

Since Nelnet’s Pathway Program began in 2016, 90 students have participated.

After launching their careers in Nelnet’s rotational internship, half of those students landed roles at Nelnet, while others found success elsewhere. What is it that makes Pathway internships such a valuable experience?

Mentorship plays a huge role – Mike Riordan, CEO of BenefitEd, knows this firsthand. BenefitEd, a joint venture between Nelnet and Ameritas, is a startup business that helps employers provide benefits like student loan repayment and college savings programs.

While dozens of Nelnet associates have been mentors in the Pathway Program, Riordan is the only mentor to be involved in all eight semesters the program has run.

“At the inception [of the Pathway Program], we wanted to get more interns at Nelnet, better our reputation, and provide a meaningful internship,” says Riordan.

To enable interns to experience Nelnet’s broad portfolio of businesses, a rotational internship program made sense. During their rotations, Pathway interns dive into departments and immediately contribute to projects that matter.

“We’ve had interns do everything from random research to the accounting and recordkeeping for our business,” says Mike.

In the Spring 2017 semester, Lewis Cobb rotated through BenefitEd as a Pathway intern. In the following semester, he returned to work with Riordan as a traditional intern.

“Lewis quickly went from Pathway to dedicated intern and did the most critical work for BenefitEd, reconciling all of our transactions,” Riordan recalled. “The business wouldn’t have survived without him.”

Lewis isn’t the only Pathway intern to provide such value to Mike and his team. Kaia Musgjerd, an operations and support specialist for BenefitEd, also started as a Pathway intern. Stories like these are why Nelnet continues to invest in the Pathway Program – it attracts and develops top talent for teams across the company.

But the value created by the program isn’t just for Nelnet, says Mike. There’s lots for interns to gain, too.

“I think interns learn that business is more nuanced than the black and white that comes with studying for a particular major,” Mike says. “They learn great communication skills, how to ask questions, how to interact with different levels of employees, and do what they love to do.”

Interested in becoming a Nelnet Pathway intern? Applications for the 2020-21 academic year open February 4th. Learn more at




Tom Hermanek III