Thursday, October 29, 2009

My Unbelievable Opportunity ~ Corporate Fellowship

~Lauren Collins ~ MA in Management Candidate 2010, Corporate Fellow
When I was making preparations about post-graduation plans last May, I was hesitant about my next move. Although applying to jobs and graduate programs, I honestly wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my career. I knew that I didn’t want to settle for a job just because it was offered, and I didn’t want to take out loans for a graduate program I wasn’t truly interested in.
“FREE MASTERS PROGRAM AT WAKE FOREST FOR MINORITY STUDENTS!” I remember receiving this e-mail thinking this must be a hoax. A free masters program? In my personal research, that was simply unheard of, as most masters programs give minimal scholarships.
After receiving the e-mail, I began researching the MA in Management program and the Corporate Fellowship at Wake Forest. First, I read about the Wake Forest Schools of Business through its web site and other sites discussing business schools. I wanted to make sure that if I decided to pursue this opportunity, I would be entering a welcoming learning environment and have access to resources needed to make me a better candidate by the time I graduated.

Once I was convinced by Dean Reinemund’s (left) vision for the business schools and his commitment to a diverse learning environment, I reached out to Debra Jessup, who was the diversity coordinator at that time. I emailed Debra expecting her to briefly answer my questions and re-direct me to some non-human communication tool as do most “busy” administrators. Needless to say, I was surprised when she asked for my phone number and a convenient time to chat. We talked for more than an hour about Wake Forest, the Corporate Fellowship, and the application process to the MA program. I was even more surprised at her honesty about the small number of minority faculty and students at Wake. But she confidently expressed that the Dean, who had been recognized for the diversity initiatives he implemented while serving as the CEO of PepsiCo, was actively working hard to recruit and retain the best minority talent.

Immediately after our conversation, I submitted an electronic application to the MA in Management program because I knew I wanted to be a part of the program and attend business school at Wake Forest. As a part of my application, I did a 30-minute phone interview with Stacy Poindexter Owen, who was also very personable and made me feel even more secure. After submitting all my materials, I was invited to an MA Open House to learn more about the program. Though the admissions event was geared toward students who planned to enter the program in 2010, I took advantage of the opportunity to visit the school and meet the faculty and staff to whom I would potentially commit the next year of my life. The morning of my visit, I received an acceptance letter via email stating I was admitted to the MA in Management program. I was thrilled and waited anxiously until the end of the Open House to find out if I would receive the Corporate Fellowship. By the end of the afternoon Stacy and I were sharing a box of Kleenex over tears because I was so expressively happy when she told me I indeed had received the Corporate Fellowship, which includes full tuition and a living stipend.
Six months later, I’m in the second module of the MA in Management program and still quite content with my decision to accept the scholarship. I’ve become close friends with the other Fellows, who have degrees from Harvard, Stanford, Vanderbilt, Brown, Davidson, Emory and Wake Forest. We meet bi-monthly over breakfast with our program director, Hansford Johnson, to discuss our experiences with our sponsor companies and the various challenges and opportunities that come along with being a graduate student.
My sponsor company, Flow Automotive, has provided me a unique mentorship with its Vice President of Organizational Development Dennis Chriss, as well as direct guidance from the CEO Don Flow. In the spring, I’ll complete an educational project covering four of the functional areas of business using Flow Auto as the subject. Don and Dennis have done a great job of providing me career coaching and leadership development. All of the Corporate Fellows (right) are having an amazing experience and gaining marketable skills from our sponsor companies.
Last week, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Dean Reinemund to discuss how we could help add more value to our sponsors. We want to make sure that we are doing everything possible to maintain ongoing relationships with these admirable companies on behalf of Wake Forest, so next year’s Corporate Fellows will have an even greater experience than we are currently enjoying.
The other corporate partners for 2010 are: Alex Lee Inc., BB&T Corp., Frito-Lay, Hanesbrands Inc., Primo Direct, Reynolds American, and VF Corp.

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