Making a Difference in the Life of Hundreds of College Students
I had the special fortune of meeting Mr. Jonathan Young, Director of Corporate Relations at Virginia State University and Chesterfield Chamber of Commerce board member, through the Chamber where he was the Member of the Month award for his contribution to the community. I got to learn about a couple of incredible business initiatives Mr. Young created for VSU students. One of them is a Business Week, were the university hosts guests from industries to speak to students about working in the “real world” and provide constructive feedback on their business skills through role playing scenarios. In addition, Mr. Young created and teaches a Professional Enhancement/Career Launch course where guests from industry facilitate student group discussion with a different focus each week.
As someone who is passionate about mentoring young aspiring students, I found both opportunities highly intriguing. I had the pleasure of participating in both of these programs. I was most impressed with the students’ skills and behavior. All the students I met conducted themselves in the most professional and positive manor. I was also most impressed with how well organized these programs were. Mr. Young puts in the extra effort to communicate all details to guests and make their experience pleasant and rewarding.
Virginia State University students are very fortunate to have these amazing opportunities thanks to the leadership and passion of Mr. Young. Having obtained two college degrees myself and worked in the “real world”, these programs Mr. Young is leading are what I wish I had when I went to school, and what I think each college should offer to all students whether they major in business or not; after all, they all will be working in some sort of a business or another.
Jon was kind to share more information on these programs in this 7-question interview:
- How would you describe Business Week?
Business Week constitutes an opportunity for nearly 1,000 undergraduate business students to be exposed to real-world professionals. Over 100 leading industry guests facilitated small group role-play, conducted team exercises, and participated in round table conversations. In a post event survey, 61.2% of students completely agreed with the proposition that the industry guests shared information relevant to what the student wanted to do professionally.
- How do you describe the Career Launch?
Career Launch constitutes a radical new approach to higher education. Representing a paradigm shift, Career Launch consists exclusively of small-group role-play pertinent to real-world topics facilitated by industry. In one semester, over 200 industry guests participate in coaching students on sales, cold calls, conflict resolution, customer is always right, etc. Career Launch is experiential learning; LECTURE IS NOT ALLOWED.
- How did you come up with these initiatives?
Career Launch’s origin was an industry focus group that I put together in 2010. I secured 17 leading professionals who participated in a four hour focus group to develop radical new real-world relevant curriculum.
- Can you explain some of the logistics that goes organizing the Business Week and Career Launch?
Haha, a lot and a lot of work!! First, it necessitates relationships with hundreds of industry leaders. Second, it demands a command of logistics equivalent to a platoon leader!
- What do you like most about teaching the Career Launch course?
It is probably the only class that I know of that when I announce at the end of the session each evening that we have exhausted our time, students boo because they want to keep going!
- Can you share examples of some of the guests that participated in your programs?
Oh goodness, it is a long list. Over 300 companies have now participated. This includes Fortune 500 companies and small entrepreneurs.
- Can you share some of the success stories that resulted from these programs?
Over 35 students have either secured internships and/or employment because of a relationship that a student forged by way of these programs.