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KeyBank Foundation elevates diversity and inclusion through summer business program at Ohio University

Thursday, July 27 2017 12:00am

OHIO’s College of Business hosts 13th annual summer business program for high school students from diverse backgrounds

Mastering the art of showcasing your talent in the workforce is a journey that most professionals navigate their entire career. But over the last 13 years, highly motivated high school juniors from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds have gotten a head start thanks to the KeyBank Foundation and Ohio University’s College of Business.

Supported by the KeyBank Foundation, an organization that invests in programs that prepare young adults for thriving futures, the Junior Executive Business Program is an intensive eight-day experience that challenges students to work in teams throughout the week to develop and present proposals for a financial literacy program, aiming to educate future college students on the various strategies that can alleviate college debt.

Students are immersed in disciplines such as marketing, finance, and accounting by College of Business faculty in preparation for their final­ presentations to a panel of judges and KeyBank professionals.  

“This program is like going through a week-long version of the College of Business’ Business Cluster,” said J’son Bennett, sports management major and Junior Executive Business Program counselor. “Students work in teams to create their own business. It gives them something tangible to work towards. Whether it’s a financial literacy app or weekend program, these students have the flexibility to create something of their own and present it to our guests from KeyBank. It’s cool to be able to help students through this process because I went through the program too.”

KeyBank remains one of the college’s top employers in the state of Ohio. This year, Junior Executive Business Program participants also had the chance to prepare for their future in business with the help of KeyBank recruiters and learn what it takes to thrive in today’s workforce

“One of our goals at Key is to recruit diverse sophomores, juniors, and graduating seniors for internships and analyst programs,” said Aqeel Brown, senior campus recruiter for KeyBank. “We have a long history with the Junior Executive Business Program, and I have been blown away by the students and their initiative. We want to help strengthen this diverse pipeline so that we can continue growing our next generation of talent.”

Brown and his Human Resources colleague, Rena Andrews, traveled from Cleveland to visit the students and give a presentation that equipped students with the knowledge and resources they’ll need to build a personal brand.

“Everyone has their own unique style and personality, but it’s about how we bring that as an asset into professional roles,” said Brown. “We have a saying at KeyBank called ‘bring your authentic self to work’. You have a personal brand and a trademark that people remember you by. KeyBank believes that diversity fosters innovation and fosters better business. That comes from each individual’s personal brand.”

The presentation helped students find their personal brand through interactive activities focused on dressing for success and delivering an effective elevator pitch.

“They really opened my eyes to a lot,” said Alexis Croom, Junior Executive Business Program participant. “They showed us that having a personal brand is about who you really are. It’s not about faking a lifestyle that you don’t have. We are who we are for a reason; it’s all about being yourself.”

Andrews and Brown also had the opportunity to connect with the students and share their successes and obstacles throughout their career journeys. They emphasized the importance of first impressions, teamwork, and transitioning into business.

“Our partnership with KeyBank is unimaginably beneficial to our students,” said Bennett. “They are getting corporate exposure early on. They also go bowling and get out of a classroom with them because it helps the students see that they’re not only professionals but regular people; they get to see both sides. Getting to talk to diverse recruiters from KeyBank has an impact on our students in terms of career goals and opportunities.

Through their relationship with the college and their additional roles as Diversity and Inclusion Champions at KeyBank, Andrews and Brown will continue their partnerships to promote diversity in the workforce and inspire future business leaders.

“Through this program, we are trying to build and cultivate this diverse young talent into the workforce no matter where their career takes them,” said Andrews. “Diversity and inclusion is incorporated in what I do every day. That’s how different ideas and initiatives are brought to the table at Key. The fact that these students have this opportunity makes them so far ahead of the game in terms of contributing in the workforce.”

To learn more about the Junior Executive Business Program, visit business.ohio.edu/jrexecutive.