MBA students learn from the pros

It's not every day a Fortune 200 company invites college students to its facilities to meet top executives and decision makers. Cyber-security company L-3 Stratis National Security Solutions recently provided such an opportunity to six Radford University MBA students.

Andrew Bibbins, Travis Dalton, Kaitlyn Hiller, Chris Hulbert, Brittany Little and Ken Tisch made the trip to L-3's Reston headquarters to meet and interview with some of the leaders of the company that provides cyber-security, intelligence, and information technology services and solutions to the intelligence community, Department of Defense, and U.S. federal civilian, state and local government agencies and international customers.

"It was a chance for our students to get real access and sit down in front of a decision maker," said Chris Niles, director of RU’s MBA program. "It was a chance to impress and get into the system if L-3 liked what they saw from the students. We often have recruiters come to campus, but it was a very different opportunity for our MBA students to be hosted by a corporation."

MBA students

Making the trip to L-3, from left, are Chris Hulbert, Ken Tisch, Travis Dalton, Kaitlyn Hiller, Brittany Little, Andrew Bibbins and MBA Director Christopher Niles

A hope Niles had going to L-3 was that one of the students would be offered a summer internship at the company. His wish came true last week when Hulbert and Tisch received the offers.

"An internship with L-3 STRATIS means a great deal to me and the Radford MBA program as a whole," Hulbert said. "It's a tremendous opportunity for me to utilize what I've learned thus far in a real-world business setting.  Hopefully, this leads to a continued relationship between L-3 and Radford that evolves into an annual internship for the MBA program."

Hulbert, Tisch and their fellow students have Dianne Tolliver to thank for the opportunity. Tolliver is the vice president for the Multiple-Award Resource Center (MRC) at L-3 and also serves on the RU College of Business and Economics Dean’s Advisory Board.

"We invited the students because we value our ties to academia, and it's important and helpful for students to gain real-world knowledge about the corporate environment," Tolliver said. "I have always enjoyed mentoring and helping college students as they transition into the workforce. I have been extremely impressed with students and faculty at the Radford College of Business and Economics."

At L-3, the RU students interviewed with a mix of managers, directors and a vice president in a speed-dating kind of format, Niles explained. They also heard a presentation about the company and received how-to pointers on job searches, resumes and job interviews.

"It was a fantastic learning experience," Hulbert said.

Bibbins said speaking with the professionals at L-3 expanded his thinking about career opportunities.

"This experience opened up my eyes to a lot of different opportunities that are out there," he said. "I was planning on going into the private sector, but I am reconsidering my options due to connections that were made."

That's exactly what Niles and the professionals at L-3 had hoped.

"It was refreshing to meet such wonderful students on the verge of entering the business world, and I hope that, in talking to a diverse group of our L-3 National Security Solutions employees, the students gained valuable interviewing experience and learned something about L-3 that will help them in their career aspirations," Tolliver said.

Leading up to the experience at L-3, the six students, who had to apply and be accepted for the excursion, went through a rigorous preparation process that included mock interviews and resume critiques from COBE faculty and RU alumni who were eager to help.

COBE Dean Faye Gilbert led the resume critiques. "I think it was a little intimidating, but I know they got a lot of value from it," Niles said.

A handful of COBE alumni, who were on campus for RU's Alumni Teaching Week during Winter Jam alumni homecoming in February, arrived early to work with the students.

"As a graduate of Radford University, a hiring manager for 20 years, a job seeker and a business professional in the work force for over 25 years, I've always believed that practice and preparation are the key to ensuring a successful first impression and favorable interview outcome," said J.P. Beckham, chair-elect of the COBE Dean's Advisory Council and senior director of The College Board.

"Thus when the opportunity to help prepare students for a successful interview session with L-3 communications arose, which involved in-person mock interviewing and critiquing at the COBE Building—the best business and economics building in the commonwealth and beyond, in my opinion—I was very happy to contribute my time to help prepare my fellow Highlanders."

Ed Lawhorn, also a member of the Dean's Advisory Council, valued the opportunity to help prepare the students for the important opportunity as well. "I enjoyed participating in the mock interviews because they aren't just practicing an interview. They are an opportunity to discuss strengths, to recognize and acknowledge areas for growth and improvement, and to determine how a student might best contribute to the organization doing the interviewing," said Lawhorn, a New River Valley market executive at StellarOne Bank.

Alumna Nancy Witt Adams also participated in preparing the students and said it was a fulfilling experience to work with students who are beginning their professional journeys. "By sharing practical knowledge about how businesses evaluate candidates, I hope to help Radford students leap to the front of the pack," Adams said. "I was very impressed with the students I worked with during the mock interviews and know they will make Radford proud."

Niles said COBE alumni and members of the Dean's Advisory Council played a major role in the success of the L-3 experience. The teamwork between those groups and the six MBA students made an impression at L-3.

"As a group we were very impressed with the quality of the students we met and spoke with. While all were MBA candidates, they represented a diverse set of career goals and specific areas of interest," Tolliver said. "They were professional, interested, dedicated and articulate. We wish them all success."

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May 7, 2013
Chad Osborne
(540) 831-7761