College of Business

Sophomore Connection

Developing Future Business Professionals

by Karen Doss Bowman

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SUMMARY: More than 500 sophomores participated in the Sophomore Connection event held on Saturday, September 17th.

As a sophomore in JMU’s College of Business (CoB), Emily Alford knows it’s never too early to start developing the professional skills that will help accelerate her career success. During the CoB’s inaugural Sophomore Connection - a professional development program - she especially enjoyed spending time crafting her “elevator pitch” to introduce herself to prospective employers. After delivering the pitch to a group of students, as well as a professor and alumnus who facilitated the session, Alford received pointers on how to improve it. 

 “Practicing my elevator speech in front of a large group built up my confidence for delivering my pitch for the future,” says Alford, from Commack, New York. “I wrote down some of the feedback I received so that I can incorporate their ideas into my pitch.

 More than 500 sophomores participated in the day-long event, offered by the Department of Management and Office of Experiential Learning on Saturday, Sept. 17. A second section of the program will be offered during the spring semester and will involve about the same number of students.

 The students were divided into 10 groups, each led by a CoB alumnus and faculty member who talked to students about what it means to be a business professional. Sessions throughout the day focused on skills such as making introductions, building a professional resume, effective networking, impression management and professional portfolio development.

Joe Rishell, a 2011 CoB graduate who now works in human resources for RSM US LLP, was one of the alumni facilitators for the event who enjoyed the opportunity to share his expertise with the students. 

“I felt honored to be invited to participate,” says Rishell, who majored in accounting and minored in computer information systems. “I have such a love for JMU and the College of Business, so anytime I can give back it’s always on my priority list. I wanted to share my experiences with the students and encourage them to take advantage of the many opportunities JMU offers for personal growth and career development. Our company, like many others that recruit at JMU, starts building the pipeline of job candidates while students are early in their college career, so the earlier they start developing their professional skills, the better.

 Students also were introduced to on-campus resources that could enhance their professional growth, including career services, experiential learning, semester abroad, student organizations.

“Our goal in hosting this program was to help students jumpstart their professional development activities so they are career ready upon graduation,” says Paula Daly, professor and head of the Department of Management. “We hope students gained an increased knowledge and awareness of the importance of constantly learning and developing as a business professionals. This activity was all about teaching students to use their interpersonal skills to build their personal brand and grow as business professionals.”

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Published: Friday, September 23, 2016

Last Updated: Tuesday, May 25, 2021

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