Tong Sun, GB’21, known in the Richmond MBA cohort as Sunnie, moved to Richmond from Beijing earlier this year. After beginning the MBA program, she knew she wanted to complete an international business internship. Debbie Fisher, associate director for The Richmond MBA, quickly connected her with the Greater Richmond Partnership (GRP), a non-profit regional economic development organization for the City of Richmond, Chesterfield, Hanover, and Henrico counties.

But, Sunnie didn’t expect to be working with an international delegation two weeks into her internship in May.

“I can speak Chinese and Japanese, and I had worked with Japanese companies for 7 years before moving here,” Sunnie said, “so I was comfortable working with the Japanese delegation.”

The group was visiting Richmond to explore potential business opportunities to expand into the region, visiting two manufacturing sites in the area.

“Half of the people in that delegation didn’t speak English,” Sunnie said. “I helped them with some questions, and I spoke with them and helped them feel more comfortable here.”

Sunnie worked closely with her supervisor, Olga Molnar, vice president of global development for the Greater Richmond Partnership, during the visit and throughout the summer.

“It has been great to work with her,” Molnar said. “Sunnie is very bright, a fast learner, and very dedicated to her internship. She gets tasks accomplished on time and goes beyond what she was asked to work on. At the GRP we greatly rely on her in our daily tasks and consider her to be part of our team.”

Molnar says this was particularly true when the Japanese delegation was visiting.

“She assisted with translation when necessary, but also was able to join the delegation for dinner and talk to them about the Richmond region and her experience moving here,” Molnar said. “They were very impressed to know that we have an intern who speaks Japanese." 

Sunnie enjoyed meeting the delegation, and was proud to be able to use her language skills so early in the internship.

“It encouraged me a lot because I saw an opportunity to use another one of my skills to express myself and show my value, and redefine my value of being here,” Sunnie said.

As an intern, Sunnie works in multiple areas for the non-profit, including assisting with research information about international companies and communities, updating foreign language brochures, and gathering information and intelligence to attract international businesses to the Greater Richmond Region. She also assisted with reaching out to international companies and setting up meetings with them during the most recent SelectUSA Conference which took place in Washington D.C.

“Working at the Greater Richmond Partnership has been so meaningful,” Sunnie said. “The work is very inspiring. I feel like I’ve made a difference.”

Molnar agrees, and says she is grateful to the Richmond MBA program for providing such a great match for GRP’s needs. 

“I think UR does an amazing job in preparing the future leaders, and I am sure Sunnie has a very bright future. I hope in return she gains a lot from this internship, by learning more about economic development and business attraction, as well as how great our Richmond region is.”

And Sunnie is grateful for the opportunity to work with GRP. 

"I feel folks at GRP are dedicating their lives to promoting the Richmond area to the nation and the world. I am so happy to be part of such an awesome organization," Sunnie said.