January 25, 2013
Parker A. Dunaway '15, Associate Editor, "The Tiger"
There were a number of students invited to come back to the Hill three days before the start of the spring semester for the inaugural Professional Development Institute (PDI) hosted by The Career Education and Vocational Reflection Office. The purpose of the weekend-long event was to prepare students "for success in life beyond the Hampden-Sydney gate," according to an e-mail from President Howard. The program consisted of sessions on various subjects: corporate valuation, personal finance, entrepreneurship, formal dinner etiquette, and even how to dress professionally and why.
According to Lt. Col. Rucker Snead, Associate Dean for Career Education and Vocational Reflection, the idea for the PDI came up just last October. He went on to comment that ever since November, his office had been working intensively to put this new, fledgling program together. The main factor that went into creating the program was deciding what should go into the schedule. Col. Snead asked himself, "What do we include? What sort of sessions would be of interest to the students - of need to the students?" President Howard commented that the "Strategic Plan calls for providing opportunities to connect the academic program with 'real world' careers..." He went on to say that the PDI was a way to communicate invaluable information for that purpose. He also noted that the Strategic Plan additionally calls for involving our alumni with current students, and, indeed, the sessions over the weekend included purposeful alumni involvement.
The events spanned many topics. The institute began with a seminar on corporate valuation from "Training the Street." Following the morning's financial talks, students were invited to go out and watch the Tigers play W&L in basketball. That night, students were informed on a subject that we here at H-SC might have found redundant: how to dress well. Steve Granger, the manager of the Richmond Tom James, a men's fine clothing company, gave a presentation titled "Dress for Success," in which he discussed the proper context for certain suits, what each suit means psychologically, and then was bombarded with a series of questions from curious H-SC students.
The next day started off with talks from Mark Meitz '95, Director of Alumni Relations, and our Director of Human Resources, Barbara Armentrout. Both speakers addressed what to expect from HR offices at a job, taxation, and personal finance.
In the afternoon, students sat in on an alumni panel - (left to right) Joe Dunn '93, Adam O'Donnell '13, John Axsom '05, and Fred Thompson '79 - who represented different fields and discussed topics such as how to define success and career challenges.
Following that, students had the opportunity to listen to Chris Gergen, author of Life Entrepreneurs, give a talk about his story after college and into his career as an entrepreneur and educator. Many students considered this a highlight of the weekend, saying that Gergen offered insight into topics that take innovation and intelligence to pursue.
The weekend ended with an etiquette dinner and a presentation by Tommy Shomo '69. At the dinner, students were encouraged to practice networking with alumni. In remarks after dinner, Dr. Howard thanked Col. Snead and Becca Snyder, Associate Director of Career Education & Vocational Reflection, for working tirelessly to put the PDI together, Tommy Shomo for giving a great presentation during the etiquette dinner, and Fred Thompson '79 of Thompson Hospitality for sponsoring the PDI.
When talking to Dr. Howard about the weekend went, he said, "I'm going to give it pretty high marks...the turn out was good...the sponsorship from Thompson Hospitality was nice... the programing was very good. People found different parts interesting." President Howard gave a very positive review of those involved in the programming over the weekend, especially our "home-grown talent."
When talking to students who participated, there was a range of reactions. Alan Rice '15 said, "Overall, I think it was very helpful. The world of finance is cutthroat and a lot of firms expect graduates to be able to do tasks like corporate valuations..." Another student, Sydney Henriques '15, spoke about the PDI in the same way: "I felt that it went well, and was successful... It was very informative, fun, and overall was a great program." Travis Luck '14 commented specifically on the alumni panel, saying, "I thought the alumni panel was helpful in shedding light on some personal experiences and stories of those who have come in and out of Hampden-Sydney and have wisdom of life and the 'real world.'" However, there was some criticism from students. Two students individually mentioned that they would like to see more alumni involvement, while another student stated that he felt his career interest was not adequately represented. Student feedback was sought and valued and will be used to shape future programs. This was the first year, and inevitably, there were going to be some bugs to work out.
On that same topic, Dr. Howard and Col. Snead both suggest that the PDI is something that should continue at H-SC. There are many professional avenues it may follow. Faculty involvement is another possibility that may be considered. After some reorganizing, the Professional Development Institute can become a vital part of the education of the Hampden-Sydney student.