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Students explore corporate readiness program at open house

Maddison Behringer / THE GATEPOST

By Raena Doty

Arts & Features Editor

The College of Business hosted an open house event for its Corporate Readiness 101 Academy program Feb. 21. This program is designed to help students, particularly students of color, in preparing to enter the workforce in corporate settings.

The open house allowed students to learn about the program and connect with those who run, helped to develop, or formerly participated in the academy so they can learn whether it would be a good fit for them.

The program is not exclusive to students of color, but it was designed with students of color in mind, according to Denise Brown, professor of business.

“We emphasize students of color because of the fact that they are the ones who are the most marginalized, the most underrepresented, and so a lot of things aren’t put forth for them,” she said, and added the workshops are all developed with “a culturally diverse lens.”

The program is also available to students outside of the College of Business who may have interest in business after taking classes in the college, she said.

After a few minutes of mingling at the event, Brown introduced Patricia Thomas, dean of business. Brown said Thomas helped her when she first wanted to create the program.

“I’m grateful for her for being the visionary that she is - for being a humble, humble leader,” Brown added.

Thomas said this program is for the students, not the administrators at the school, and she hopes to see everyone in the program get the most out of it for themselves.

“Seize the opportunity, and we hope to see you at every session,” she said.

Thierno Sall, a finance major who finished his FSU classes in December and will be walking for graduation in May, spoke next. He’s an ambassador for the Corporate Readiness 101 Academy program and participated in it the first year it was offered.

He said the program taught him a lot he didn’t know because, as a first-generation student, he didn’t have a lot of guidance from his family about navigating the corporate landscape.

Sall added the program is set up so “the more you put in, the more you get out,” and encouraged students to actively participate and connect with the people running it.

He said the program helped him develop his career and find internships to do for class credit while still working on his degree, which led to an offer for a full-time job immediately upon his graduation.

“I came into my final semester at ease because when you’re at that final stretch, I think everyone’s biggest concern is what they’re going to do after college, so I was able to really focus on school. It was a blessing,” he said.

He added one outcome of the program is that he’s on track to gain certification as a yellow belt in the Lean Six Sigma program, which focuses on teaching increased efficiency within the workplace.

Brown said this certification will give students an edge up against otherwise equally talented candidates for jobs, and may increase their starting salaries.

Brown thanked Erastus Ndinguri, professor of business, and John Palabiyik, chair of the Management and Business & Information Technology Department, for their support of the Career Readiness 101 Academy program and in general.

She introduced Darryl A. Bonner, a mentor in the program and a senior accountant and apprentice at Liberty Bank.

He said he began his career at the United States Naval Academy as a major in political science, but when he was placed in the field of finance after joining the Marine Corps, he developed a passion for the field.

Bonner added after he left the military, he began to look into the corporate field for a job.

“That’s never a fun feeling,” he said. “You don’t know these people. They don’t know you. And you’re handing them a piece of paper and hoping it’s good enough for them to accept you for a job.”

He said the networking he did outside of the program connected him with the CEO of Liberty Bank, who introduced him to the apprenticeship program he’s doing now.

Bonner said he didn’t want to continue his education if he were doing it through his own money, and when he looked at other companies, he didn’t find anyone willing to give him a program like the apprenticeship Liberty Bank offered.

“They were willing to invest in my career development. They were willing to invest in me as a person,” he said. “A lot of times in corporate America, it’s not about you, your name, and stuff like that. It’s about - you’re a warm body, and you’re going into this position, and that’s it.”

He ended by emphasizing the importance of networking, especially for people of color.

“We sometimes have to utilize it just because of the color of our skin,” he said. “Sometimes we’re not able to reach certain levels just because of what we look like. And, yes, it’s a problem, but we can’t just sit there.”

Jerome Burke, director of the Center for Inclusive Excellence, said this program is really great, and would have helped to benefit him when he first moved to the United States from Jamaica.

“I wish I had a space like this, where I could learn and really grow,” he said. “So I’m super, super excited about being a part of this.”

Sunni McCoy, professor of business and one of the original facilitators of the Corporate Readiness 101 Academy, said the program is a chance for students to be honest about their knowledge of the corporate world.

“That’s what corporate readiness is - to fill in some of the gaps that we just don’t know - to be able to be vulnerable in a group and speak on experience to professionals that have experience,” she said.

McCoy added the students who are most successful in the program are the students who are highly engaged.

She said students who do put in the extra effort to get the most out of the program will be able to receive yellow belt certification with Lean Six Sigma.

Brown said she wants people to know the facilitators for the Corporate Readiness 101 Academy are all genuinely invested in their success as students and as members of the corporate world.

“We are genuine, and we are professionals who want to give back, and we just ask for as much support as we can get,” she said. “These are our future leaders, and they’re going to lead.

“Support can mean a lot of things,” she added. “A little bit really can go a long way.”

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