As graduation approaches, a group of Hesston College senior business students caught a glimpse of the ins and outs of entrepreneurship as they met with several business professionals and college partners in Chicago. This trip was organized as a part of the program’s hybrid class structure that incorporates hands-on, global experience into the curriculum.
School of Management professor James Thompson and Program Director Enrique Barreiro accompanied the cohort on a trip to the Windy City where, through connections from Hesston College Board of Directors chair, Ken G. Kabira, they met with several successful business professionals.
“These applied learning trips would not be possible without the support of the Hesston campus community,” said Barreiro. “The connections made available to our students have provided valuable experiences for them.”
On the first day, students met with Andrea Sawyer-Kirksey. Sawyer-Kirksey is a representative for SheRoars, an eight-month leadership program that focuses on entrepreneurship education, training and support for women of color. SheRoars is an asset-based approach to community economic development that provides participants with coaching, leadership development and funds to help support their creative and business ventures. Sawyer-Kirksey shared inspiring stories of female entrepreneurs and their paths to success.
Meg Beyer, a member of the senior cohort, gained a valuable takeaway from Sawyer-Kirksey.
“She taught us about taking chances, having the confidence to take the first step in opening a business and to push ourselves to look past where we are comfortable to find true possibilities,” said the senior from Harrisonburg, Va.
Through Sawyer-Kirksey’s connections, the group met with Tony Daniels, associate director of church and volunteer engagement at Breakthrough. This nonprofit organization focuses on serving the underserved in Chicago and aims to help people build connections, develop skills and open doors to career opportunities. They offer various services to the community including youth and education development, economic opportunities, housing, health and wellness, violence prevention and spiritual formation. The program offers a boutique option that provides women with clothing for job interviews or even daily activities.
Hesston students also met with Anton and Liset Adkins who own a mom-and-pop eatery called Café Calidá. The Adkinses shared their story of pouring their life savings and more into their bright, neighborhood coffee shop. Anton Adkins felt God was calling them to serve their community from a different perspective by providing a quality product and the space for the community to share and express themselves. His testimony was especially encouraging to the students.
“Anton’s faith journey inspired me to trust my gut and do what I feel called to,” said Beyer. “God can take the smallest thing, like serving coffee in the basement of your church, and turn it into something that protects and brings a community closer together.”
Though the trip was organized mainly for learning, the group enjoyed a little bit of fun as well. After sitting down for some Chicago-style deep dish pizza, the cohort went to a Chicago Bulls basketball game. The Bulls lost a close game but Beyer and the rest of the group made the most of the experience.
“Even though we were up in the nosebleeds, we all still had an amazing time,” explained Beyer. “We also got on the jumbotron five times and some pretty cool hats!”
The group wrapped up their trip by meeting with Bernard Koh, executive director of middle market banking and specialized industries at JP Morgan. Koh specializes in industrial financing and provides credit, cash management, capital markets and corporate finance solutions to corporations, municipalities and not-for-profit organizations nationwide. Koh gave the students several tips on how to build on their degree after graduation. He stressed the importance of continued personal and professional growth and the desire to continue learning at any job and at any time.
These words hit home with Beyer and the rest of the cohort as their future careers await them in just six short months.
“We learned again to take chances and that getting a degree is important, but once you have it you need to prove yourself and do the work to make your way in the business world,” said Beyer.
According to Barreiro, this trip was a great opportunity for students to see their work in the classroom applied across different realms of management.
“I enjoyed the diversified experiences the group was exposed to,” said Barreiro. “We were able to learn from various leaders how they are working to make a positive impact for the greater good. The experiences gained from this trip will be long-lasting memories for each student that they will carry with them into their careers, making them better employees.”
The Hesston College School of Management is committed to shaping well rounded members of the business world. Small class sizes ensure an interactive environment where students examine case studies, collaborate on team projects and engage with real world companies and enterprises. The skill-set acquired by Hesston graduates opens doors to a wide variety of job opportunities ranging from non-profits to Fortune 500 companies.