A group of diverse undergraduate students from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business visited Atlanta and Memphis, Tennessee, on two separate professional development trips this spring.
Site visits on their two-day trip to Atlanta included: Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, the Tennessee Valley Authority, Georgia-Pacific, iCreate, Inc., and PepsiCo. In Memphis, students visited First Tennessee Bank, the New Memphis Institute, FedEx, AutoZone and International Paper. The college’s Office of Diversity and Community Relations hosted the trips.
For Taylour Lang, a freshman business analytics major, visiting the First Tennessee Bank Headquarters in Memphis was both inspiring and eye opening.
“First Tennessee appealed to me due to its emphasis on serving the community and creating a workplace environment that motivates its employees to work outside of their comfort zones while improving their strengths and encouraging professional and personal growth,” Lang says. “We are responsible for the growth of our communities no matter what profession we choose.”
Stephen L. Mangum, dean and Stokely Foundation Leadership Chair at Haslam, says, the primary benefit of professional development trips is to provide students with a picture of what awaits them in the working world.
“Often there is no substitute for such a picture,” Mangum says. “How do we decide what we want to become in life… what professional path to travel? Sometimes, the answer comes in the form of role models such as parents, family friends, teachers and personal heroes who inspire us. The answer may come in exposure to course material that piques imagination. Other times, inspiration comes in seeing individuals at work at their place of business and envisioning oneself in that setting and role.”
Tony Hale, a sophomore finance major, has participated in three professional development trips. Hale says having an opportunity to present himself to companies’ senior leadership is invaluable to his business education.
“It’s about who you stand out to,” he says. “You have to prove to people that you’re worth remembering. It’s not every day that a student earns the privilege of meeting vice presidents and CEOs.”
Juanwen Cheng, a junior economics major from China, says the opportunity to meet with the company leadership throughout the trips gave him a feeling of confidence.
“Because English is not my first language, I was nervous at first,” Cheng says. “With practice, though, I began to share my thoughts fluently. Now I feel I can present myself well in classes, conferences, interviews and other situations. The most important things I learned from this trip were to not be afraid to use what you learn from school or life to speak out with your voice and impress people.”