As a former Working Professional Student at the Wake Forest University Schools of Business, I have to commend David Smitherman and Orthovative Technologies for winning his category at this year’s Elevator Competition. Having gone through the evening program, I can attest that it must have been difficult for David to incorporate participating in the rigorous competition with a schedule that includes night classes, a job, and some semblance of a social life.
Not trying to overshadow the moment, I will say that his accomplishment should be a wake up call to the university to get Working Professionals more actively involved in events such as this. During my two years, I found the program rewarding, classes challenging and networking valuable. There are, however, at least two areas where evening students are missing out.
Working Professionals are not allowed to be on the team for the Marketing Summit, though they are allowed to work the event. I once asked a former team caption about this during the Club Fair and he told me that evening students could not compete because of there is a chance that their employer could end up sponsoring the case. The chances of that happening are slim. Granted, 2012 sponsor BB&T has employees in the evening program. But I could also see a situation where a full-time student on the Marketing Summit team could have a conflict if he/she ever interned at a sponsorship company (or had already accepted a post-MBA job at one).
There is an easy fix ... allow for alternates who can step in if such a rare conflict arises. An alternate could sit in on team meetings and game plan. Sponsors are is announced in advance of the competition, easily giving the team time to adjust.
By adding evening students, you also get team members with many years of real-world work experience and a different view of business. You get people who have historical perspective and strong work ethic. If they are willing to commit the time needed to participate they should be allowed to compete. It will make each team stronger and raise the overall profile of the Marketing Summit.
Working Professionals are not actively recruited for leadership roles such as SGA leadership. Most evening students believe that SGA is only for full timers. Meanwhile, policies were being created by full-time students without evening program participation. The university should do more during evening students’ first year, perhaps during orientation, to encourage them to get involved, schedules permitting, with clubs and government.
The university has made strides to meld the full-time and evening programs - kudos to Stan Mandel and the Elevator Competition for letting working professionals compete. But there is room for more progress. Doing so will create a more-integrated university, a more competitive program and a more communal atmosphere for all. Orthovative Technologies is proof of that.