Pathways to Success

Professional Development Program Expanded, Revamped

The bar is set high for today’s business graduates. They must be knowledgeable not only in their area of study, but also have skills in the subtle, but no less important, aspects of business such as communication, leadership, networking, and civic and community engagement.

“One can know a lot of information, but being able to communicate, convey, and contribute to using that knowledge in a professional setting is how you get from here to the next level,” said Melanie Deppen, coordinator of the Black School of Business’ professional development program.

That’s why the school, with input from members of its Business Advisory Board’s Professional Development Committee, recently launched a revised and expanded professional development program that aligns with curriculum and with the skills students are building during their years at Behrend.

“We’ve changed the presentation of the program to a series of pathways that offer an increasing level of engagement,” Deppen said. “By their junior and senior year, students who participate in the program are expected to be self-driven and motivated. They are typically given opportunities to engage with company representatives and network.”

Participation in the program is voluntary and free. Students log on to the platform through the Behrend Sync online student portal, browse the professional development activities, opportunities, and suggested tasks that align with their year in school, and record their participation.

Those who complete the program reap a few tangible rewards (incentives such as business card holders and professional messenger bags) and, more importantly, plenty of personal and professional growth.

“It not only gives students opportunities to network and learn, but the program provides a structure that assures you’ll be in an ideal position by the time you graduate,” said Cody Ritter, a first-year student dual majoring in Accounting and Finance.

Mentors are another important resource for Black School of Business students working on professional development. The school recently expanded its two existing mentoring programs and launched a new cross-cultural mentoring experience.

Advisory Board Members Speak to Value of Professional Development

The school’s Advisory Board members who volunteer to serve on the Professional Development Committee recognize the importance of helping students acquire the softer skills of business. Business News talked to a few of those members to hear why they make time to help guide students:

“I have benefited from others coaching me throughout my career,” said Jana Goodrich ’95 M.B.A., president and CEO of Seaway Manufacturing, “so I truly enjoy giving back to students, and I recognize the importance of keeping Behrend graduates exceptionally competitive.”

“For many students, there is a lot of discomfort in interacting with successful professionals,” said Bruce Gray ’80, senior vice president and credit officer at Bank of America. “If they can sit down and be at ease in a conversation with a business leader, they’ll stand out from the crowd.”

“The softer skills that are built in the professional development program are things that are definitely going to advance graduates’ careers once they get in the door,” said Joi Goffus, recruiter at Bechtel Plant Machinery Inc.

“One of the things I hope to emphasize is that business students should value liberal arts and general education courses because it makes them a more well-rounded person,” said Ann Scott ’89, ’99 M.B.A., community outreach manager for Erie Insurance Group. “When I first started my career, I remember thinking how appreciative I was that I had taken courses in the arts and sciences because I could talk about a variety of subjects and connect with people on a different level. And, in business, it’s all about connections.”