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Inaugural Select Leader Alumni Day connects former and present #BusinessBobcats to kick off Homecoming weekend

Thursday, October 15 2015 12:00am

Esteemed and young program alumni returned to Athens Fri., Oct. 9, to share tips, stories, and ice cream with current Select Leaders

By Brianna Wilson

What do you get when you mix 15 alumni, 40 students, two professors, and one afternoon? Advice, questions, and a whole lot of laughter. 

The inaugural Select Leader Alumni Day began with an interactive lunch conversation led by Tim Reynolds, executive director of the Walter Center, followed by an overview of this year’s program by Kevin Warner, president of Select Leaders. But the most engaging session was Select Leaders alumni talking about their life after Athens.

“I loved hearing the alumni speakers,” said Josh Matthews, ‘19. “The recent grads had a lot of relevant advice, and then the older alumni helped us to think about where we want to be in 10 years, and how to get there.” 

What types of advice did alumni give? Frank Straub, ’95 advised students to have goals and grit. “It’s really easy to do something short-term, but if you can do it with persistence over a long period of time, that’s what will separate you from others,” he continued. Recent graduate Abby Stauffenger, ’14 described how skills she learned in Select Leaders, such as networking and self-assessment, made for a smoother transition for her first 18 months post-Athens.

Though the advice was serious, the atmosphere was relaxed. Taylor Matthews, ’15 started with a joke, “It’s great to hear that Frank [Straub] survived the 80-hour work weeks, because I’m in them right now, and it’s a total life transition!” Meanwhile, Monique McDonough Means, ’95, ended hers with quick wit; “I’m looking to Tammy [Reynolds] for validation that I talked about everything I was supposed to.” And after each speaker, alumni entertained the thoughtful and inquisitive questions from current students.

Though alumni created a hard act to follow, the crowd was equally enthusiastic as Select Leader Program Directors Tim and Tammy Reynolds talked about the future of the program. “In the past, we’ve looked at what top schools are doing [to develop leadership skills],” said Tim. “Now, we’re more interested in what the top companies are doing.” Fortune’s top 25 companies for leaders focus on finding their leaders early and have a defined leadership model. The College, Select Leaders, and the Walter Center are continuing to improve their strategic leadership model for assessment, development, and coaching of leaders based on research and the practices of these top companies. They also will be growing the executive education programs within the College.

It’s part of the College’s mission to integrate leadership development in curriculum, according to Dean Sherman. He began by focusing on the past as he described how business education developed after World War II. “The good part is we now have a core business curriculum in place,” he said. “The bad part is that we haven’t really adjusted for how the world has changed.” 

With that, Sherman unveiled a key strategic initiative of the College: redesigning the business core to emphasize leadership skills. “We want not only to have great programs like Select and Emerging Leaders, but for the core curriculum to facilitate the growth of leadership and talent development,” he said.

What began as a history lesson ended in goose bumps as Sherman wrapped up with one last thought: “A lot of schools talk about trying to develop their top 20 percent. We’re really trying to develop 100 percent of our students, and that’s part of our mission.”

An ice cream sundae bar topped off the day. In the words of Tim Reynolds, “It was a sweet event, and we ended it in a sweet way.”