Rachel Fernelius

From Fashion to Automotive

Written by Sarah Chavey

Alumna Rachel Fernelius, ’15, has taken on work in both the fashion and car industries, and to her surprise, she prefers the latter.

“The fashion industry was super fun and really creative, but it lacked a balance between creativity and business,” she said. “It was a lot more creative than I wanted.”

Rachel began pursuing her interest in fashion immediately after graduation with an internship at Nordstrom. Last fall she attended a fashion school in London. Currently she works for Toyota, and it’s proving a better fit.

The yearlong fellowship with Toyota in California is the result of an internship she’d completed the summer before her senior year. Through three month-long rotations, the program trains fellows in areas like marketing, product planning, advertising, sales, customer service, and social media. Rachel is currently in the advertising rotation and learning how much she likes it.

“Cars are really cool. They’re lifestyles. They take you from point A to B. They bring people together. It’s really fun to be able to advertise and be creative with cars. I found that, being in the marketing and advertising departments, the company actually will give you a lot of different opportunities to be creative.”

Rachel enjoys helping to create ads and ad campaigns as well as discuss how people react to the campaigns. Some of the work she’s most proud of involves her helping to produce a more cohesive campaign.

“Being able to really get exposure to the leaders in the company, to create work that’s meaningful and impactful and that will withstand my time in this rotation has been really rewarding,” Rachel said.

Other times, she’s had to ask for help. Recently she reached out to Associate Professor of Marketing Susan King. Dr. King responded right away with assistance.

“It was really rewarding to be able to email a professor from college. She can still help me learn through my career now. Every day I feel like what I learned in my business courses at Hillsdale really paid off well.”

One of Rachel’s favorite classes at Hillsdale was the small business seminar offered at the end of the fall semester. In it she designed her own boutique.

“It got me really passionate about marketing, helping me decide to be a marketing major. It was great for me to see I could be creative in designing my boutique while also creating the pricing, working with numbers, accounting, and so many different facets.”

Rachel’s next rotation at Toyota will be with customer service, where she will learn about different aspects of the vehicles and how to help customers “when their dashboard or audio isn’t working.” She’ll also learn how to teach them about other Toyota products.

“What draws me to the company is the fact that it’s so impactful. It helps with technology around the world. Their ability to create something more than cars is something I really like. I’m learning so much being a part of such a big corporation.”

Speaking of, Rachel’s first major piece of advice for business majors is to work at a big company.

“If you have an opportunity to work at a big company, even if it’s not something you think you would like, it could be an amazing experience that opens doors.”


Sarah ChaveySarah Chavey is a music major from Ann Arbor, Michigan. She hopes to pursue journalism when she graduates in 2017.