College of Business: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Going strong: LEAD 2013


by Bianca Flowers

High school students from across the U.S. made their presence known at the College of Business. For three weeks, high-achieving minority students got the opportunity to experience exciting college-level business curriculum while interacting with prominent business leaders, executives, and notable professors who shared their insights about the multifaceted world of business.

The Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) program was founded to expose prospective underrepresented college students to business careers. Since 2004, the College of Business has sponsored the selective, Philadelphia-based program. Its unique blend of classroom lecture, case studies, and small-group interaction allows students to practice business simulation by producing their own proposals and solutions.

Ashley Tucker, a student advisor for LEAD and recent College of Business graduate, says the variety of courses exposes students to a wide array of career choices. “Students take classes on economics, accounting, finance, and even networking—things that we (student advisors) weren’t taught until we got here. They’re equipping themselves with these principles before entering college.”

Brendan Busch, a rising senior from Orange County, Calif., says a personal branding class got his eyes fixed on marketing: “I didn’t know how interested I was in marketing until I took this class. Learning about the significance of branding yourself as a college student is important.”

This year, 28 students dove into the corporate stratosphere, visiting successful startups and giving presentations in front of high-caliber corporations such as Google.

“Visiting these companies debunked the stereotypes I had. I expected to see everyone in a cubicle looking serious, but every company had its own uniqueness and was more laid-back than I thought,” remarks Busch.

Ellis Crawford, a junior from Brooklyn, New York, says what he’ll cherish most about LEAD are the friendships and working with students from diverse backgrounds.

“We bonded because of the classes that we’ve taken together, hanging out in the dorms, and exploring campus,” Crawford says. “At the beginning, we figured out each other’s personalities. It was cool to find out what types of leaders we were, and what leadership skills each of us is able to bring.”

Ivelisa Rivera, a senior from Chicago who had her sights set on a legal profession, says that their downtown visit to an ice cream shop gave her a change of heart. “We took a class on entrepreneurship. When we visited Jackie Johnson’s ice cream shop, the owner told us her story about starting small, then expanding. She inspired me to become an entrepreneur and start my own business.”

The LEAD program concludes with a case competition in which the students have chance to impress and put the business skills they’ve acquired to the test. The competition is the capstone for the entire program. “Having the opportunity to give presentations in front of deans and corporations challenges students to confidently present in a setting such as this. It also jumpstarts the skills for the future as far as being able to talk to people who are older,” says Tucker.

While some students aren’t intending to go the business route upon entering college, the LEAD program is sure to provide fundamentals of business that will be transferable to whatever career path they choose.

UIUC College of Business