Developing professionals extends beyond classroom

Riya Anand, a first-year business student, is one of the top participants in the Professional Leadership Program and says she’s found it to be an invaluable resource.

Riya Anand, a first-year business student, is one of the top participants in the Professional Leadership Program and says she’s found it to be an invaluable resource.

Credit: Penn State Behrend

Educating today’s business professionals requires more than academic preparation. New graduates are expected to be knowledgeable not only in their area of study, but also possess and demonstrate other business skills in areas such as communication, leadership, networking, and civic and community engagement.

“Employers want well-rounded individuals,” said Laurel Brown, professional development coordinator in the Black School of Business. “But it’s hard for students to know how to acquire these skills on their own, which is why we launched a Professional Development Program last year.”

Using Suitable, an online professional development platform, students are encouraged to participate and document their activities that build their professional profile.

Participation is voluntary and free for students. They pick from a variety of activities at each level, such as joining a professional organization, registering to vote, participating in a class project, attending a cultural performance, or volunteering at a nonprofit. As students complete each level, they can earn incentives from the school or from local businesses like Erie Insurance, the Erie Sports Commission, BKD CPAs and Advisors, and McCarty Printing. The partner businesses might offer a job shadowing experience, a plant tour, or maybe even gift certificates or scholarships.

“As they complete more activities, students can improve their ‘rank’ in Suitable. The top twenty are listed on the leaderboard on the home page,” Brown said.

Currently, about 400 students are participating in the program, as are a dozen business partners who are, no doubt, keeping an eye on the leaderboard.

Maxwell DeBlasio, a first-year Finance major, is a student you’ll often find listed on the leaderboard. He says the program has helped him get involved on campus, meet people with similar interests and ambitions, and even given him a leg up in his major.

“I haven’t taken any higher-level finance classes yet, but I have a better understanding of the field and the terminology used because I have attended financerelated lectures and guest speaker events,” DeBlasio said.

His favorite Suitable activity so far? “Becoming certified to use the Bloomberg Terminal because it is a critical source of business information and is used by business professionals all over the world,” he said.

To learn more about Suitable or the Black School of Business’s Professional Development Program, contact Laurel Brown at [email protected] or 814-898-6686.