Kari Zimmer was among the top students at her high school in Buford, Georgia. But as a first-generation college student from a single-parent family, Georgia Institute of Technology didn’t even come to mind until her high school guidance counselor brought it up.
She had mostly thought about attending a small women’s college in her hometown, but her mother said she was made for bigger things.
“She said that I needed to get out of here and into the city, where all the companies are,” Zimmer recalls.
But still she hesitated.
It wasn’t until Georgia Tech extended the application deadline due to a snowstorm that Zimmer says she decided to take up the serendipitous opportunity to apply.
“When I found out I’d gotten in, I was overjoyed. Georgia Tech is not a school you turn down,” says Zimmer, who majored in marketing and minored in engineering as a member of the Scheller class of 2015.
Established in 1913, the Scheller College of Business has consistently ranked among the top 35 business programs in the world. Some 90% of students in the Class of 2017 received job offers by the time they graduated.
During her time at Georgia Tech, Zimmer traveled to Europe to study renewable energy, study at Oxford, England, and take classes in microelectronics and robotics alongside engineering students. And she did it all without taking any loans, thanks to the Georgia Tech Promise Scholarship.
TOP-NOTCH ‘TECHNOLOGY AND MANAGEMENT PROGRAM’
In line with the Georgia Tech vision of producing entrepreneurial leaders who are technologically knowledgeable, the Denning Technology and Management Program (T&M) was established in 2007 through the support of Scheller alumnus Steven A. Denning.
Under this two-year program, 65 undergraduate students from the Colleges of Business, Computing, and Engineering take classes together in their junior and senior years to discover and develop interdisciplinary skills and approaches to real-world problems.
“Scheller’s vision is to position our students at the intersection of business and technology,” says Jonathan Clarke, associate dean of Undergraduate Programs at Scheller. “A lot of the big problems facing the world are interdisciplinary in nature. They are not solved by business people, scientists or engineers alone, but through collaboration.”
As part of the program, Zimmer took classes in nanotechnology, tore apart machines, and built robots with her peers from the engineering school. Course prerequisites like physics and advanced mathematics are mostly waived for students in this program, allowing them to pick up skills organically through team projects and coursework.
“This program had me doing projects with engineers, researching, creating and developing products,” Zimmer, who now works as a product manager at E*Trade, says. “I learned how to communicate with engineers and marketers, which is what I do at my job everyday.”
The T&M program is funded by a team of corporate partners including Boeing, Caterpillar, Equifax, The Home Depot and Siemens. The businesses also help to support the students’ annual international study trip.
Since 2015, students in the T&M program go on a fully-paid weeklong trip to several countries to observe and study how other countries are researching and developing solutions for different populations. In the first year, students went to Belgium, France, and Germany to visit wind farms and research facilities for renewable energy. In 2016, they went to the Czech Republic, Germany, and Poland to learn more about countries that had moved away from centrally planned economies. In 2017, students visited Hong Kong and Shenzhen, China to meet with experts on the topic of sustainable economies and societies.
Scheller students can also choose to study abroad for a semester at one of Georgia Tech’s global campuses. The most popular programs are in Oxford, England, Lorraine, France, and Eastern Europe.
CODA TECH SQUARE A HUB FOR INNOVATION AND CREATION
Located right in the heart of Atlanta, Georgia, students at Scheller College have the support of many successful businesses in the community including The Coca-Cola Co., Turner Broadcasting Inc., Mercedes Benz, Suntrust Banks and NCR Omni-Channel Solutions, many of whom visit the school regularly to recruit students.
To urge students even further to dare to imagine, Scheller College is also anchor to the globally recognized Coda Tech Square, where over a dozen Fortune 500 corporations including AT&T, Panasonic, Delta Airlines, and Southern Company have set up key innovation centers. The 1.4 million square-foot business innovation district will fully open in 2019 and has already attracted the attention of companies globally. California-based Keysight Technologies said it will invest $14 million in an Atlanta software development center at Coda, creating 250 jobs, and German manufacturing firm ThyssenKrupp AP said it would lease up to 15,000 square feet at Coda.
According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the city is ranked among the top five up-and-coming tech meccas in the nation. It’s little wonder then that Coda Tech Square is also home to business accelerators, startup incubators, investor offices, and leading startup companies.
“We have potential employers across the street from Scheller and that means internship and job opportunities,” says Meara Coy, a member of the Scheller class of 2015 who is now an engagement manager at Contender Solutions. “We attend seminars, lectures, and hackathons while developing partnerships within the industry and community. The Tech Square is a place to meet people, bring ideas and innovate.”
WHY INNOVATION MATTERS NOW MORE THAN EVER
The school has recognized the increased demand for innovative students globally and to prepare their students for it, Scheller College will begin offering Strategy and Innovation as a new area of concentration starting Spring 2018.
The school currently offers six concentrations — accounting, finance, information technology management, leading and managing human capital, marketing, operations, and supply chain management.
“There is the buzz of innovation centers and startups around the school that empowers the students to begin creating right away,” Clarke says. “The new innovation concentration is our way of equipping our students with skills that are set to become even more sought after.”
Students in the Strategy and Innovation concentration will take courses to learn about management in the healthcare sector, technology, global and intellectual property strategy. They will be challenged to consider when to patent a product or if they should keep it a secret.
Global corporations in virtually every industry and consultancies such as McKinsey & Company, the Boston Consulting Group and Bain & Company now offer internships and entry-level positions with the titles “strategy analyst,” “innovation analyst,” and “strategy and innovation analyst”.
“We understand that students have to consider return on investment when making their college decisions,” Clarke says.
‘PROMISE PROGRAM’ CREATES NEW OPPORTUNITIES
Zimmer, whose hometown lies an hour north from the city, says she never ventured to the city. Having never seen the school, Zimmer says she put off applying to Scheller in part because of the price.
The $12,418 tuition cost per year for attending Scheller College would have put the school outside Zimmer’s consideration, but when she heard that she would be receiving the G. Wayne Clough Georgia Tech Promise Program, it was a no-brainer decision on where she would be spending the next four years.
The Promise Program is designed to fill the gap in the financial aid support system for residents of Georgia. Students from families with an annual income or less than $33,300 are awarded funds that when combined with other scholarships and grants ensure that the student’s financial needs for full-time resident tuition, material, housing, food and other costs are fully covered. The final result for Zimmer was an opportunity to focus on her education, design a career and build a future.
The Georgia Tech HOPE Scholarship is the other support students-in-need can apply for. It is a merit-based scholarship program available to undergraduate residents of Georgia and awards up to $7,200 for two semesters of enrollment in 15 HOPE eligible credits per term.
CALLING SCHELLER HOME
Once you’re in Scheller College of Business, you’re family, as several alumnus we spoke with said. Scheller was place where your professors knew your name, your career counselor knew where you wanted to go and the best path for you to get there.
“We bond for life”, said Coy. “Everything is rigorous, homework is hard, sometimes it even feels impossible. But you build friendships that last a lifetime.”