High Schoolers Explore the World of Business in Haslam Summer Program

The Business Education for Talented Students program enables participants to learn about Haslam’s degree programs, work on team projects and engage with business professionals.

August 17, 2023

For many teenagers, summer is not a time to think about school or their futures, but 28 high school students from Tennessee and other states recently used part of their summer break to do just that. These students participated in the Business Education for Talented Students (BETS), an annual summer program at University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business that provides participants with a peek at college business majors and potential business careers.

10 Days of Immersive Learning

Delivered by Haslam’s Office of Access and Community Connections (OACC), the 10-day BETS residential program encourages rising high school seniors from underrepresented communities to explore business through several daily structured activities. They attend workshops taught by university faculty and staff in accounting, finance, entrepreneurship, marketing, supply chain management, business analytics and professional development. Attendees also collaborate in team-building sessions, engage in college-readiness workshops and interact with industry professionals. At the end of the program, students complete a team project and make an executive presentation to college faculty and staff.

LaKietha Jackson, OACC’s coordinator of Outreach & Pre-Collegiate Programs, explains that through the BETS program, students from underrepresented communities discover possibilities they might not realize are available to them.

“Our goal with BETS is to provide opportunities for underrepresented students to learn more about our college, about university life and about the many fields of business,” Jackson said. “The 2023 BETS students were full of curiosity and excited to be here to learn from faculty, staff, business representatives and from each other. We were pleased to work with them to explore their college and career options, and we are excited to see what the future holds for them.”

Positive Experiences with Professional Networking and Recreational Fun

BETS participants had many exciting opportunities beyond workshops and professional development. They tackled sessions on leadership style, attended a business professionals mix and mingle, had dinner downtown with the Knoxville Chamber, attended a campus connections fair that introduced them to university programs and resources, went on a site visit to Regions Bank and had a learning session with representatives from New Horizons Center for Experiential Learning. Students had some additional fun with recreational opportunities on and off campus, including painting, zip lines and cookouts.

Reflecting on their experience, most 2023 BETS participants said having a better understanding of business and learning the importance of networking and connecting with others were strong takeaways from the program.

Mason Bethea of Huntersville, North Carolina, said, “This has been a great experience where I learned how to conduct myself in a business setting and collaborate with people from different backgrounds.”

BETS helped Angel Melendez, who hails from Memphis, recognize that learning is a life-long process. “We must continue always being open to others, learning from them and their perspectives and always make a connection with them,” he said.

Ashley Smith, also from Memphis, added, “The BETS program taught me so much about the different regions of the business world and what Haslam has to offer.”

Chattanoogan Amare DaSilva gained a sense of belonging from the program. “Being able to connect with other minority students, as well as networking with UT faculty and business programs helped me realize there is a place for all of us at UT,” DaSilva said.

Preparing the Next Generation of Business Leaders

Now in its 16th year, BETS has introduced more than 400 students to business, with 95 percent of them using the experience as a springboard to college entry. Roughly 67 percent of BETS participants enroll at UT. These achievements would not be possible without the generous donations of the program’s sponsor, Regions Financial Corp. Clarence Vaughn, head of OACC, called Region’s work with BETS a service to the community.

“We wish to express our gratitude to Regions,” Vaughn said. “Supporting this program helps prepare the next generation to excel in an increasingly diverse, evolving and challenging business environment, which benefits us all.”

Vaughn added that BETS is only one of many outreach programs OACC offers to equip new generations for the future. These outreach programs include the Early College Access Program, the Accounting and Information Management Academy, the Women Empowered through Business Institute and the Supply Chain Management (SCM) Summer Program, as well as several community-centered initiatives in partnership with UT, the City of Knoxville, Knox County and many other community partners.

The BETS program will return in summer of 2024. For more information about how to participate, visit the BETS website or contact LaKietha Jackson.

About the Haslam Office of Access and Community Connections

Haslam’s OACC strives to build a welcoming and inclusive environment for faculty, staff, students and the community. It provides academic resources and mentoring programs for students and hones their leadership and interpersonal skills while advancing diversity and inclusion initiatives. The office also works with several corporate partners who support a diverse and inclusive business community at the collegiate level and beyond. Further, by partnering with community organizations throughout the Greater Knoxville Area, OACC facilitates college attendance and retention.


Scott McNutt, business writer/publicist, rmcnutt4@utk.edu