When Tom Van Dorselaer returned to the University of Tennessee as a faculty member in the Haslam College of Business, it was a dream come true.
After graduating from UT in 1981 with a bachelor’s in marketing and later an MBA, Van Dorselaer had a successful 30-year career with Procter & Gamble. Upon retirement as a P&G executive, he decided to pursue his lifelong dream to be a teacher.
“During my career, I would tell people, ‘Someday, I’m going to go back to UT to teach,’” Van Dorselaer says. “I wanted to help others and share my business knowledge and experience.”
Immediately after retirement in 2014, while still living in Cincinnati, Van Dorselaer joined Haslam as an associate director, recruiting candidates for the Graduate and Executive Education programs. In 2015, he moved to Knoxville and joined the Haslam’s marketing department, where he teaches professional sales and corporate responsibility classes.
“I’m very passionate about preparing students for a professional business career,” he says.
For Van Dorselaer, preparing students means education and opportunity. Upon arriving in Knoxville, he envisioned an opportunity to elevate and advance the professional sales profession by bringing students, faculty and industry together in a collaborative program.
To this end, he founded the Professional Sales Forum and serves as the executive director. In its fourth year, the forum has prepared over 460 future sales professionals through robust training, networking and job placement programs.
Van Dorselaer is also proud of the great reception creation has had among leading industry partners. The forum has 30 corporate partners, including Pepsi Co, P&G, Ryder and E.&J. Gallo Winery. These companies support the forum, participate in executive education, network and recruit students for meaningful careers in the sales profession.
“One of the most rewarding part of our job is when our student leaders are hired,” says Van Dorselaer. Corporate sponsors tell Van Dorselaer that they prioritize students for recruitment from his program because they are exceptional in terms of talent, preparation and overall business acumen.
In addition to the forum, Van Dorselaer created the Professional Sales Leadership Program. This program identifies top-performing students for direct recruiting, professional development and networking opportunities. The sales leadership program works hand-in-hand with the sales forum to train the next generation of sales talent to create revenue for companies from day one.
Van Dorselaer’s latest initiative provides opportunities for underrepresented students. The Professional Sales Scholarship for Diversity in Professional Sales aims to help recruit more traditionally underrepresented students into careers in professional sales.
“The students don’t have to go into professional sales, but it opens their eyes to the possibilities,” Van Dorselaer says.
To bolster this scholarship program, the 10 by 5 initiative was created, seeking 10 companies to give $5,000 each. Inaugural scholarship partners E. & J. Gallo Winery, PepsiCo, Ryder, Enterprise, Dell Technologies and ALKU, who have funded $60,000 in Diversity Scholarships.
“I just think it’s the right thing to do,” says Van Dorselaer. “It’s a great start, and it’s getting something done in the area of diversity and inclusion.
Van Dorselaer’s passion for creating these opportunities for students earned him the 2021 Haslam Diversity and Inclusion Award.
“It was one of the top highlights of my career,” Van Dorselaer says of the award. “It just shows you the type of place that UT is and Haslam’s commitment to diversity.”
Personally, Van Dorselaer provides yet another opportunity for students through a scholarship he endowed honoring his father. The Roland C. Van Dorselaer Scholarship supports Haslam students each year.
“My mother enjoys meeting the students each year, and we all love seeing the impact of the scholarship on the students,” he says.
This impact is what keeps pushing Van Dorselaer forward as he continues his dream career in academics.
“I love working with the students, and I’m trying to help as many as I can to get a great start in their business careers” says Van Dorselaer.