A Business Bobcat in the Bobcat Battalion: How one student made the most of his OHIO experience
Wednesday, April 29 2020 09:29am
Ohio University marketing senior Hunter Neal didn’t know it at the time, but moving 219 miles from his high school ended up being the best decision he ever made.
Hunter Neal (Chagrin Falls, Ohio) knew he wanted to study marketing ever since his early high school years. Although he was unsure of what exactly his college experience would entail, his field of study was the one aspect he was certain about.
“I chose marketing because when I was in high school taking as many business classes as possible, I saw the "Start with Why" video by Simon Sinek and it really spoke to me about finding purpose in everything you do and opened my mind up to why people do what they do,” Hunter explained.
While Hunter was researching the best public schools in Ohio, he came across Ohio University. The business school stood out to him because it was clear that the professors focus on caring for their students and providing them with countless resources to help them learn and grow. After researching schools, all it took to solidify his big decision was one visit to Athens. Within seconds of being on campus, Hunter knew that Ohio University was where he was meant to be. He was impressed by the campus beauty, but his utmost interest in the College of Business gave him confidence that the bricks of Athens would become his new home.
In fall 2016, he began his college career as a first-year business student at Ohio University. Like many freshmen, his first semester consisted of courses in classrooms and lecture halls, learning about introductory topics. Hunter also spent much of his first semester with his business learning community. (At OHIO, learning communities help each student set their academic path, meet students in the same major, and make them aware of their resources on campus).
Although participation in his classes and learning community were essential in the early days of that first semester, and he was having fun, Hunter was looking for opportunities to get more involved. He wanted to gain as much as possible from his college experience. While Ohio University offers students hundreds of student organizations and groups to join, Hunter knew that one perfectly suited him: Army ROTC.
Just one month into the semester, Hunter quickly got involved in the highly-ranked program. Army ROTC at Ohio University has long enjoyed a history of excellence since it started in 1936. In fact, the Bobcat Battalion won the 2017 McArthur Award for being one of the top eight ROTC programs out of 275 programs in the United States.
Hunter could talk at length about the benefits of pursuing ROTC at Ohio University. But when asked to give just three, he responded, “leadership training, financial incentives, and being part of a close-knit group for my four years.” Both ROTC and the College of Business helped him learn and explore a variety of skills and opportunities that he never knew he would have the chance to experience.
In order to be successful in ROTC, Hunter explained that “it requires students to show up to all events, at the right time, at the right place, and in the right uniform.” This structured approach helps instill a discipline in students – one that Hunter has applied every day since. He was able to implement these high standards into his professional classes in the College of Business, where he aimed to be just as disciplined as he was in ROTC. He explained that having these basic abilities will benefit him not only in his future career, but also in his daily life as he continues to take on new responsibilities.
FINDING HIS STRIDE
Moving into sophomore year, he began taking on leadership roles in both programs. More specifically, in ROTC, he became a team leader of three freshmen and was responsible for mentoring them through the program’s rigorous schedule. In the College of Business, he took the Integrated Business Cluster — or simply, “The Cluster” — during the spring semester. Cluster is a group of four classes which are taken together and involve working on large projects for real clients. Working to solve business problems for a major radio company created a great real-life situation, where he compiled research and was responsible for giving marketing recommendations. This project also showed him the importance of teamwork because as everyone in the group had to contribute and share their critical thinking skills so that they could come up with a conclusion they supported.
Through his leadership roles, he was able to develop communication skills while also gaining a new sense of confidence. Hunter explained that leadership is important because it taught him how to adapt to certain situations and motivate his peers. “Even if you are not in a leadership role in an organization, there are always opportunities to be a leader and develop important skills.”
As junior year came around, his marketing courses became more critical because he was learning topics that he knew would directly apply to his career after graduation. His communication and public speaking skills were also the best they’ve ever been, thanks to having to articulate his ideas through various presentations for his different classes. Working toward a military science minor, he had to present a tactical mission brief to his instructors every week.
From group work to individual presentations, Hunter became more confident and learned how to share his ideas in an efficient way.
FINDING A WAY TO DO IT ALL
Now a senior, Hunter is carrying lot of responsibility. However, unlike many of the country’s college seniors, he knows exactly how to manage his many responsibilities because of the skills he gained by being an ROTC cadet and a business student.
In ROTC, during the fall semester, Hunter was the Company Commander, managing 40 cadets and ensuring that each has a strong training regimen and are meeting the high standards of OHIO’s program.
Every day, he hones his communication skills: He receives information from the highest levels of leadership and then facilitates it through the chain of command to freshmen participants. He’s also continuously developing new skills through his highly specialized marketing classes.
Compared to freshmen year, his class sizes are now “small,” though admittedly, they never felt large. Hunter shared that his current classes’ sizes creates a more comfortable and casual environment, consisting of well-organized discussions. And at the start of the semester, made it easy to meet new people.
It’s evident that Hunter’s four years at Ohio University as a marketing student with a military science minor have been demanding. But there’s more — in addition to his packed schedule, Hunter is also a student employee in the college’s Career and Student Success Center. And in December 2019, he traveled to Brazil as a participant in the college’s Global Consulting Program. (He really is doing it all – all in four years too.)
Wearing both his ROTC Cadet and Business Bobcat hats, he summarizes a typical day as consisting of physical training first formation, conducting physical training, taking military science class and a few business classes, group projects, attending platoon meetings, and then getting to enjoy a few hours of free time.
PREPARED FOR THE FUTURE
While Hunter was busy growing in the ROTC program, he was still able to prepare for his career with the help of the College of Business. Even though he felt that he did not have enough time to gain extensive experience in industry, the College of Business professors and staff provided him (and all their students) with the support and tools needed for graduation and beyond. Knowing every student’s situation is different, Hunter said, “They’ll do a lot to get you to graduate. Even if you don’t get an internship until after graduation, they still let you walk with your class and then send your diploma to you later.”
While the whole college is supportive of student success, Hunter’s student employee home is probably the ‘face’ of this work. The Career and Student Success Center offers professional academic advising and career management to business students, and also focuses on employer and alumni relations. It provides students with exceptional coaching, tools, and resources in order to develop a successful career, including assistance with the job exploration process and interviews, help with writing resumes, and the opportunity to network through various career fairs. With the help of the Career and Student Success Center, 83% of Ohio University business graduates have jobs at graduation, and 90% secure jobs within just 3 months of graduation.
Hunter’s success throughout his college years is only one of many examples that it’s possible for students to be involved in multiple programs, regardless of their interests and field of study. Ohio University and the COB encourage and help students get involved in organizations in order to form them into more well-rounded individuals, who are better prepared for their future career.
As he looks to the future, Hunter gives all credit to the College of Business and ROTC for providing him with the opportunities to grow both personally and professionally — in order to one day become successful in this industry. Hunter believes the leadership positions he sought out and the skills he developed have made him more prepared for the workplace than the majority of his peers.
Written with contributions from Hunter Neal, Jim Harris, Meghan McManamon, and Bri Schoepf