COBA provides learning beyond classroom walls

Brett Biggs ('90), executive vice president and CFO for Wal-Mart, speaks to business students in the opening session of the College of Business Administration's first accounting and finance development seminar March 12.

Brett Biggs (’90), executive vice president and CFO for Wal-Mart, speaks to business students in the opening session of the College of Business Administration’s first Accounting and Finance Professional Development Seminar March 12.

April 26, 2016 | Business |

As the semester is coming to a close, students are busy studying for finals and putting finishing touches on presentations. Students are reflecting on the knowledge and skills they’ve learned in the classroom over the entire semester, and for students in the Paul R. Carter College of Business Administration, some of that learning took place outside of the walls of a classroom.

Professor of Accounting Phil Brown and Director of the Center for Professional Excellence Brian Harrington led a group of accounting and finance majors to Bentonville, Arkansas, March 12-14 for the college’s first Accounting and Finance Professional Development Seminar. Over the course of the three-day seminar and work sessions, 19 College of Business Administration alumni, many of whom worked for Wal-Mart, participated in the process through either presenting information or providing guidance and advice in the student work sessions.

Tabitha Haney Davis ('15) works with a student during a resume building session March 13.

Tabitha Haney Davis (’15) works with a student during a resume building session March 13.

“I feel like working with the alumni was very beneficial,” senior finance and accounting major Daylan Skidmore said. “These were young professionals who were, for the most part, fresh out of college and mostly similar to us, the students. It was impressive to see how much they have learned in their short time at Walmart, and it encouraged me to push myself even more inside and outside of the classroom.”

After attending one a Wal-Mart Saturday morning meeting, the group spent the weekend at the University’s campus in Rogers, Arkansas, and students learned about topics such as tricks for using Microsoft Excel, building a resume, making a great presentation, and leading a table talk from alumni who have been working with these tasks in a professional setting.

“This seminar was one of the most beneficial experiences I have come across,” Skidmore said. “I not only sharpened my professional skills, but I learned through experience and mostly trial and error. What I experienced and learned, I believe, can’t be taught in the classroom. This seminar pushed me to think outside the box and exposed me to valuable insight from intelligent individuals.”

“What I experienced and learned, I believe, can’t be taught in the classroom.” -senior Daylan Skidmore

At the end of the weekend, students made presentations to a panel of alumni who provided feedback and student evaluations. Several alumni also met up with the group for dinner on both Saturday and Sunday evenings, which gave students an opportunity to network and learn from professionals in their fields.

“The seminar culminated in the students each gaining a greater self-awareness of their gifts, abilities and interests and a greater sense of appreciation for the value of a team,” Brown said. “Learning is a lifelong process — it is not an inoculation, and there are no textbook solutions in the business decision-making process.”

On April 11, students in Assistant Professor of Marketing Lori Sloan’s professional sales class spent an evening at Ann’s Bridal in Searcy for Sloan’s etiquette dinner, an event she’s been hosting each semester since fall 1995.

“I felt like it would be invaluable for business students as they interview and maneuver through the business world,” Sloan said. “The goal is for the students to be more confident in these types of settings after going through the courses in an actual dining environment. It makes them more marketable, opens more doors in the workplace and in life, and broadens their circle of influence.”

Assistant Professor of Marketing Lori Sloan visits with students at her annual etiquette dinner April 11.

Assistant Professor of Marketing Lori Sloan visits with students at her annual etiquette dinner April 11.

As a part of the course curriculum, students participated in a five-course meal and learned necessary skills for navigating a business dinner in a social setting. Students sat in tables of six while Sloan communicated tips on professionalism and dinner etiquette throughout the meal.

“The etiquette dinner was an ideal time to focus on things I don’t want to worry about when I’m on an interview or with a client,” senior marketing major Geneva Brock said. “Mrs. Sloan made us aware of do’s and don’ts so that we can be confident in a professional dinner setting. As a college student, dinner means eating. As a professional, dinner means relationship building.”

Students learned the proper way to introduce themselves, how to hold conversation with people they just met, proper table settings, and how to be confident in a situation that makes many people uncomfortable. After the event, students came away with knowledge that will help them not only host their own business event one day, but also make a good impression on those with whom they come in contact.

“As a college student, dinner means eating. As a professional, dinner means relationship building.” -senior Geneva Brock

“Mrs. Sloan graciously hosted us to help enhance our professionalism and give us a unique, out of the classroom experience that we may not receive at another school,” junior finance major Matthew Brashear said. “The etiquette dinner helped me learn how to conduct myself in a business professional setting. I learned how you can use these dinners to make connections with other people.”

The College of Business Administration is continually providing opportunities like these and many others for their students to learn outside the classroom, and Brown is thankful to alumni for contributing to the academic and professional growth of students in the college.

“Harding has a tremendous group of alumni who care deeply about what continues to happen in the educational process,” he said. “They are willing to ‘pay if forward’ by giving their money and time to be directly involved in that process of helping us in our work with the students, and we are so thankful for that.”

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