Sometimes, it is the little things that students never forget.
Just ask Lauren Epps, a 2019 Wake Forest graduate. A Business & Enterprise Management major, Epps suffered the loss of two family members as a senior. Seeking solace, she reached out to her advisor, Sharon Payne. The response that Epps received was immediate, unexpected, and authentic.
“She told me that I could call her anytime to talk and was so intent on giving me comfort during that difficult time,” Epps writes. I’m going to remember that moment for the rest of my life and will be forever grateful to Mrs. Payne and others like her in the business school who have helped me in all areas of my life.”
Talk to School of Business alumni and you’ll hear similar stories. Wake Forest is a place, in Epps’ words, where faculty and staff “always go above and beyond” to help. Maia Julianne Kennedy, a 2020 grad, describes the school as a place where students “are far more than just a number.” She adds that it place where professors make time to build a personal relationship with each of their students. It is a philosophy that has been embraced from top-to-bottom she adds.
“Our School of Business leaders are probably the most thoughtful and helpful individuals I have met. At many business schools, it would not be common to have one-on-one interactions with your dean besides during admissions and graduation. I am honored to have shared my professional endeavors with [the dean] throughout my college experience.”
This “nice” approach doesn’t just foster a welcoming atmosphere that makes business majors feel comfortable. “The small class size at Wake facilitates an environment that encourages collaboration between both students and faculty,” adds 2019 grad Robert Knight. “I have benefitted from this greatly, through my time as a research assistant and teaching assistant. In addition to these roles, the personal examples and conversations that I have gleaned from faculty have proven invaluable as I continue to navigate the early stages of my career.”
Alumni support is one reason why Wake Forest rose from 22nd to 13th in P&Q’s 2021 Undergraduate Business School Ranking. In P&Q’s survey of Class of 2018 graduates, the School of Business scored among the 10-best in areas like the quality of faculty and career advisors – not to mention positioning students for dream careers, developing soft skills, and preparing students for work.
Employers have certainly taken note. Last year, nearly 95% of School of Business grads landed full-time jobs within three months of graduation. That number is nearly equal to the percentage of 2018 grads who found work in their desired industry (94.29%). On top of that, business majors graduate with just $10,628 of debt – giving them greater freedom to pursue their passions.
No wonder business alums gave a 9.54 average score to recommending Wake Forest (on a 10-point scale). “Wake Forest University opened my eyes to what it meant to learn wholeheartedly through different facets,” one alum told P&Q. “My experience taught me how to be an adult, how to see the world for what it is and question what it should be, how to give back to the world of business. I am thankful for my experience and the professors that invested in me intentionally throughout my 2 years there.”
What makes Wake Forest so special? This is what two school leaders – Kenny Herbst, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Business Programs, and Mercy Eyadiel, Chief Corporate Engagement Officer – told P&Q.
5 QUESTIONS WITH KENNY HERBST AND MERCY EYADIEL
P&Q: Over the past year, you’ve climbed from 22nd to 13th in our newest undergraduate business ranking. What are some new and upcoming developments in your program that will enhance the business program for future business majors?
Herbst: “The new Pre-Wall Street Career Track (PWSCT) is extremely popular. Via this Program, our students engage in self-discovery. Our students explore the common careers on Wall Street, and they are exposed – early and often – to what these careers in finance entail specifically. We do this very early in the student’s career at Wake. As a result, our students have knowledge – in their first year at Wake –that they will need to be competitive for a position in Finance.
Our faculty have also traveled to businesses to learn more about the projects on which various businesses work and, most importantly, to bring that knowledge and those live cases back to our classrooms. Our B-School prides itself on bringing the market to Wake – so that Wake students are market-ready for the companies for which they will work first/next.
Our capstone course for our Math Business majors affords our students the opportunity to work on data-driven projects – with companies. In addition, our B-School has some of the strongest student advisors in the country, as seen in our recent Poets&Quants student advising ranking. Our students fly the plane, but they have knowledgeable and seasoned co-pilots who reliably chart the students’ paths.
In 2020, we revitalized our SportsBIZ Program that sits at the intersection of sports and business. We brought in terrific speakers from the sports industry and included a case competition in which students solved a live business problem for Wake Forest Athletics in order to gain valuable experience. One participating student mentioned the following: “In 19 days, SportsBIZ provided me with the knowledge and information necessary to excel in a career in sports that I would not have received anywhere else. The combination of incredible speakers and enthusiastic, engaging, and passionate professors who all have deep personal connections to sports made it amazing.”
P&Q: In our alumni survey, Wake Forest alumni consistently gave the school Top 10 scores across various measures. That included career advising and positioning students to achieve their dream careers. What has your career services been doing differently – or more effectively – to generate this level of alumni enthusiasm?
Eyadiel: “Our Market Readiness & Employment team is focused on career coaching and market connections based on our students’ career and life goals. What’s unique about this experience is our go-to-market strategy, where our Career Coaching, Employer Relations, and Alumni Engagement teams partner together to organize several Career Treks in major markets including Atlanta, Austin, Charlotte, DC, New York, and San Francisco. Students are able to learn about a wide-range of industries and functions including Analytics, Consulting, Financial Services, Adv/PR/Marketing, Media/Entertainment/Sports, Technology and many more.
These unique experiences enable students to directly connect with alumni and other professionals who are able to provide industry insights and the key knowledge, skills and experiences required to be competitive in their field. We have also established a professional development grant of $1.5M which allows all undergraduate students across the University to apply for need-based scholarships which covers travel expenses, internship stipends and professional attire.”
P&Q: Wake Forest also ranked 4th in quality of teaching in the business school according to alumni. What do you see behind this high level of satisfaction with Wake Forest business faculty?
Herbst: “Our faculty care deeply about our students’ experience – inside and outside the classroom. Students consistently mention how accessible our faculty is. Our instructors are more than educators inside the walls of our Farrell Hall classrooms. They are mentors and advisors – for life.”
P&Q: What are your undergraduate business program’s two biggest strengths and how do make students better prepared for business once they graduate?
Herbst: “Our biggest strengths is the uniqueness of our community. Wake Forest has a history of very strong connection among all of our stakeholders – faculty, staff, students, and alumni. This is evidenced by our strong ratings of teaching, academic advising and career advising.
We deliver consistent career coaching, and we implement the Ready7 framework (seven essential skills (Self-Awareness, Career-Awareness, Personal Branding, Network & Relationship Building, Interviewing Skills, Professional Skills & Literacy, and Life & Leadership) that will set up our students for success in a career, in graduate school, or in life. We believe that it’s not only about the job that students land once they have earned their diploma. To be Ready7 means that students are prepared and focused. The Ready7 gives direction and purpose to the often-daunting journey from college to career.”
P&Q: When alumni look back on their time at Wake Forest, what would they consider to be their signature experience? How does it bring the best of the best of the business school experience together?
Herbst: “Our Deacs, looking back, will remember fondly and in detail the support that they received from their instructors, career coaches, and advisors. Part of what makes Wake such a unique and attractive school for students is the extent to which the students have relatively easy access to all that they need in the way of support. We are a smaller school. The lines here are not long, and the staff and faculty who stand at the end of them – ready to help – are friendly, warm, and knowledgeable.
In the winter of their senior year, our Accounting students are engaged in internships. The students do very meaningful work to which they apply what they have learned in accounting at Wake — during the employer’s busiest time of the year.”
Eyadiel: “Wake Forest delivers a state-of-the-art, innovative virtual and in-person programming and career support for alumni to fully own and succeed in their future career and life path. In a collaborative effort, our School of Business Alumni Engagement team partners closely with the Office of Alumni Personal and Career Development and the Mentoring Resource Center, the only higher education mentoring center of its kind, to reinforce mentoring as hallmark of the Wake Forest experience.”