Connecting expectations to reality


Setting students out on the right foot can be difficult when you don't know which step they will take first.

Professional Development So, Hampden-Sydney has created the Professional Development Institute, a intensive weekend covering topics not necessarily found in the classroom, such as personal finance, business networking, and specific professional skills. The inaugural Institute was held in January and designed for upperclassmen interested in a career in finance or business.

The Institute began with Training the Street, a skills-development workshop for applied finance fundamentals. In recent years, students have participated in the Training the Street program and say the experience has helped them land valuable internships and their first job. Future Institutes will feature other career-specific training and development programs.

Students also learned from the College's Director of Human Resources Barbara Armentrout about managing health care options and planning for retirement. Director of Alumni Affairs Mark Meitz '95 covered personal finance, including taxes. Also on hand were John Axsom '05, Fred Thompson '82, and Joe Dunn '93, as well as Christopher Gergen, author of Life Entrepreneurs, a collection of interviews with 55 successful individuals who share their passion for life.

As a recent graduate and an entrepreneur, Adam O'Donnell '12 told students they need to be ready for a quick start after graduation. He says, "There is no better time to start a business than right after you graduate. If you succeed, you have created a great foundation for the rest of your career. If you fail, you don't have a family that will be negatively affected by that failure. Also, having that business experience right out of college makes you a great job candidate or graduate school applicant. These guys need to see graduation not as an ending but as a beginning."

"Expectations" was the keyword for evening activities, including a "Dress for Success" program by Steve Granger of the clothier Tom James and an etiquette dinner given by Tommy Shomo '69, the author of To Manner Born, To Manners Bred: A Hip-pocket Guide to Etiquette for the Hampden-Sydney Man.

Overall, the students were pleased with the variety of the events and how much they learned.

Brian Collins '15 says, "Alongside the tangible skills taught in the Training the Street segment, the Institute emphasized professional character; from the Dress for Success presentation to Gergen's talk about entrepreneurship, we were taught how a man should carry himself and interact with others in a business environment."

Alan Rice '15 appreciated the advantage the financial training gives younger students interviewing for finance internships, and he was glad to pick up some tips on personal presentation. He says, "There were a lot of subtle nuances about dressing for success that I didn't necessarily know about, such as choosing a navy suit as a 'first interview' color and a grey suit as a 'deal closer' suit."

"We will be having a variety of these PDIs," says L. Rucker Snead III '81, associate dean for Career Education and Vocational Reflection. "Whether our guys are going into business or education or the ministry or science, they need to have a realistic idea of what to expect after they graduate. So, having our alumni come visit and talk to students about their professions is incredibly valuable."