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Ford Center for the Fine Arts

Business Intensive Seminar Teaches Entrepreneurship, Ethics, and Public Speaking

July 09, 2018

Students collaborating on their presentation

Almost 30 Knox students donned professional attire on the day after final exams to participate in the 2018 Business Intensive Seminar. The program spanned four days and gave rising sophomores, juniors and seniors an immersive experience in business and leadership.

The Business Intensive Seminar was facilitated by Jim Foley '78, director of the Turner Center for Entrepreneurship at Bradley University. Joining him were colleagues from Bradley University, student mentors, and members of the Knox Board of Trustees, the latter of which served as judges for final presentations.

Deja Jenkins '19, who participated in the 2017 Business Intensive Seminar, returned as a mentor for this year's cohort. "I had an internship last summer right after this. It really helped prepare me," she said. "I was much more prepared to go into a corporate office every day, like sit at a desk, have a routine."

The seminar schedule included lectures on various business fundamentals, workshops, and time for research and collaboration. Students were divided into teams, and each team chose a struggling company to present on. Their research included an analysis of the company's history, the struggles that this company faces in the current market, and suggestions for how the company can improve.

Foley said that in addition to business knowledge, the seminar focused on "how to be more effective in teamwork, how to be more effective in communicating, and how being more effective in making presentations. I talked to them about how just being able to be effective in speaking in front of a group will take you so far."

For Riley Nelson '20, these are exactly the skills he's developed over the course of the program. "There are a lot of lessons within that 'business-y style' that are broader takeaways," he said, "That's what I'm really excited about."

The 2018 seminar improved upon last year's iteration, taking into account feedback on pacing, course content, and more. New this year was an ethics component, added with support from Carol Parke '67 through the Parke Ethics Fund.

Foley said that ethics is a great fit for the seminar: "I may have my own personal ethical decision to make. But if I'm in management, I'm now making decisions that affect so many more: affect our customers, affect our stakeholders, affect the environment."

Bamise Afolabi '21 knew he wanted to be a pre-med student before arriving at Knox, but quickly developed an interest in psychology as well. Now he's opening more doors. "What if I start up something myself? We have the basic skills already," he said.

"There are a lot of applications for the things that we've learned," he added. "[We can] perform SWOT analysis of a company and say 'No, you're doing this wrong, this is what you need to do better.'"

Khanh Linh Duong '20 has found similar benefits from participating in the seminar. "I think it's developed my teamwork skills in general, and I think the financial analysis was very helpful."

The Business Intensive Seminar was a significant commitment, from start to finish. Students had to be nominated by a faculty member in order to apply, and committed to spending long days and nights on their business projects.

Nyerere Billups Sr. '99, who served as a judge for the presentations, called this a "real world experience" that reflects the reality of life after college. "When you get into the workplace, the information is live, the data is live, the conversations are alive, the risks are real."

Billups also makes a key distinction between content, which is fact-based, and presentation, which is dynamic: "Once you own the content, you step in the room as the orator. This is your story, they're your audience, so as you learn how to tell this story, you're going to be able to sell this in a way that will translate to success."

As always, Foley is excited about the opportunity to serve the Knox community, whether that be by speaking in classrooms, serving as a panelist, or mentoring. "Students need to hear our stories, they need to hear the journeys of alumni, they need to see how a liberal arts education directly relates to their success and their career. And they need to see the breadth of what that looks like," he said.

"What I would just encourage alumni to know is that it is incredibly rewarding."

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Vir Das '02 gives the Commencement Address at Knox College Commencement 2018.

#"They should have had this in 1995 when I was here!" — Nyerere Billups, Sr. '99.

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Printed on Wednesday, September 19, 2018