RU departments partner for unique Wintermester course
The Radford University Career Center, Office of Alumni Relations and the College of Business and Economics joined forces this Wintermester to offer the new DC Experience: Connecting in Business course.
The three-credit-hour class is designed to teach basic business concepts that students can apply in their future careers. Eleven students from across multiple disciplines and grade levels participated in the inaugural class. They studied online modules and applied in-classroom learning to the "real world" during a Washington D.C. excursion.
The five-day trip to the U.S. capital included visits to four employer sites: FedBid, Case Design, Edelman and the U.S. Capitol, where they were hosted by alumni engaged in a broad range of business government and organizational leadership positions. There, students presented case studies related to course topics – accounting, economics, finance, management and marketing – to senior staff members, including CEOs.
"I gained so much from getting out of the classroom because I had a first-hand look at how businesses operate," said junior business management major Peter Hart. "Having to research and prepare case studies and then present them to executives of some of the companies was challenging and rewarding. It’s one thing to do presentations in class, but doing this in front of business people in their offices is a whole different experience."
Such an eye-opening and realistic experience is just what the course intended, agreed its many designers.
Director of the Career Center Ellen Taylor said that broadening students’ global career and cultural awareness is a priority and while not a “study abroad,” this program was designed in that vein, as an accessible alternative route for students to explore the larger world.
"And Washington D.C. is like another world," Taylor said. "Northern Virginia is such a rich area for internships and careers."
Taylor collaborated with Teresa Dickens, assistant director and career advisor, Sarah Rogis, associate director for career and internship development, NOVA region, and Associate Professor of Marketing Gary Schirr, the course instructor, to create the curriculum. In Alumni Relations, executive director Laura Turk and staff connected with RU alumni volunteers who work in the Northern Virginia and Washington D.C. area.
"We are always trying to find opportunities for our students to connect with our successful alumni," Turk said. "And it's great for our alumni to see our aspiring students, too."
The class launched on Dec. 16, and on Jan. 8, students carried their luggage and brains full of newfound business knowledge up north.
The sophomore, junior and senior students were responsible for their own transportation and managing a full day's schedule – which usually started at 7:30 a.m. and concluded around 9:30 p.m.
Rogis traveled with the group for the majority of their trip and witnessed students step out of their comfort zone, she said.
"Some of these students aren't business majors. And some of these students had never been to Washington D.C. before," Rogis said. "But they all stepped up and were really invested. "They were great representatives of Radford University."
Throughout the course, students researched, studied and pushed beyond what they were learning in the classroom to present strong case studies to the executive panels.
"We worked together and we worked hard," said Hart, of Springfield. "We each brought our own strengths to the table. Then to be able to combine that with meeting Radford alums and learning from them was really rewarding."
In addition to visiting the four employer sites, students also participated in two professional networking events. At the D.C. Connect- Alumni and Student Networking Event, students and alumni engaged in networking and a career connect activity in which students rotated through six "career stations" staffed by alumni mentors. Mentors shared insight and information related to several career topics including resume writing, job search strategy and interviewing tips.
Alumni mentor Christopher H. Harr '09 of Immix Group, said several of the students have already followed up with him since the event for internship opportunities.
"The students I met were clearly exceptional, and it was evident to me that there was a screening process and that they were well prepared for the evening," Harr said. "The event was well-run, and the attendance was some of Radford's highest caliber students."
Through the second networking event, students met with Stephan Cassaday '76, who started a successful financial planning business, Cassaday & Company. Cassaday served on the RU Board of Directors from 2000-04 and 2010-14.
That alumni/student link was a vital part of the class, both groups agreed, and was representative of the entire Radford University experience.
"It is important for our students to feel really good about their education and to see the sky is the limit," Turk said. "Students can say 'I am so proud to be at Radford because I met so many amazing alumni.' And vice versa. Alumni can say 'I am so proud of my alma mater because they continue to foster amazing students.'"
To learn more about Radford University's Wintermester, visit the website.