Tips from Those Who Know


The complete collegiate experience includes the requisite intellectual growth and a healthy dose of personal growth. For the second consecutive year, a select group of Hampden-Sydney students have taken part in the Professional Development Institute (PDI), a weekend before the beginning of the spring semester when they consider where they want to take their lives and learn the steps how to get there. The program is designed to enhance students’ professional growth and personal enrichment by exploring issues, sharing ideas, and gaining insight from mentors.

While last year’s PDI focused on careers in banking and finance, this year’s event was broader in scope. Students and the guest mentors, many of whom were Hampden-Sydney alumni, discussed a variety of topics, including potential vocations, how to network successfully, and how to convert career theory to practical applications.

James Hughes ’15 says, “The Professional Development Institute was a great experience. I will carry many of the lessons I learned in those two days for the rest of my life. The program had a great mix of different aspects of life after college. Meeting alumni, learning business etiquette, and learning how to build your personal brand were just a few of the valuable lessons PDI had to offer. It definitely got me thinking about my career and I have had a different level of focus ever since.”

The most valuable part of the weekend for Kyle Hart ’16 was the presentation by Benjamin Frye ’03, a financial planner with MetLife. Kyle says, “He really opened my eyes to good spending and saving habits, as well as the ins and outs of financial planning. The whole weekend opened my eyes to all the steps that need to be taken to get an internship, get a job, and then stay out of debt.”

Another highlight for the students was the keynote address by Ed McMullen ’86, president of McMullen Public Affairs in Columbia, South Carolina. He talked to students about trusting their instincts, learning from failure, the benefits of fear, and other tips for forming a fulfilling and productive career.

McMullen says, “When I was asked to speak at this year’s Professional Development Institute, I was honored. As an alumnus, I always enjoy being able to come back to Hampden-Sydney and revisit the great memories on campus with faculty, students, and administration. Having the opportunity to interact with undergraduates at a personal level is one of the many aspects that make Hampden-Sydney unique among other institutions. It was encouraging to see men with such promise participating in the PDI. I trust that the program will continue to thrive and attract even more students in the years to come.”

Many other alumni were involved in this year’s Professional Development Institute. Tommy Shomo ’69, director of marketing and communications at Hampden-Sydney and author of From Manner Born, To Manners Bred, gave his well-known etiquette presentation. Harlan Horton ’94, David Riddick ’77, Rucker Snead ’81, Spencer Conover ’10, Paul Brammer ’11, and Randy Reed ’82 put students through the paces of mock interviews. A career-focus panel discussion featured insights from Doug Payne ’94, owner of Payne & Company; Cameron Marshall ’12, project coordinator at McMullen Public Affairs; and Adam O’Donnell ’12, CEO of Quantifize.

After two successful Professional Development Institutes, this valuable student experience is undoubtedly here to stay. If you are interested in mentoring students in a future PDI, please contact Ellen Masters, director of career education and vocational reflection, at (434) 223-6106 or