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Taylor’s Business department has collaborated with University Advancement to create the Executive Speaker Series, or ESS, that invites executive business professionals to join students on campus and speak in strategic management classes.
Coordinated by Mike Falder, Executive Director of Development, ESS is open to all majors on campus, but particularly benefits Business students. Through this program, all Business majors can meet and build relationships with eight to 10 business executives each semester, according to Dr. Jody Hirschy, Business Department Chair.
Because the speakers arrive on campus, students don’t have to go far to connect with the professionals. “[ESS] gives students an opportunity to network and learn from business executives simply by walking across campus—it doesn’t get any more convenient than that,” said Hirschy.
The idea emerged when Dr. Jeff Sherlock, a Professor of Business, and Dr. Ben Sells, former Vice President of Advancement, took a group of Taylor students to visit Walmart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, in 2010.
“We were talking about the Business program and one of us said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could bring some highly placed executives into the Strategic Management class to share stories about strategic challenges they have faced in their businesses?’” said Sherlock.
They piloted the program with four speakers the next semester, and it has since grown to include approximately 120 speakers since its start. Recent speakers have included Mary Kladde, the Senior Vice President of Metasource Financial Services, and Frank Runion, the CFO of Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health.
And not only do students get to hear from business professionals about their experiences in the corporate world, but they also get to hear a little bit about each person’s story—why they have a heart for business as missions, or how they work as a Christian business professional.
Students have a positive view of the series as well. Senior Anna Cummings, the President of Enactus and a student in the spring strategic management class, believes the program gives students the chance to hear leadership insights.
“While we’ve been learning theory and practicing skills in the classroom for four years, the series gives us the chance to see what those theories look like in the real world, in dynamic market conditions, and how faith practically impacts the way we approach strategy in our professional careers,” she said.
The lineup of speakers come from a variety of industries, which exposes students to different business opportunities and industries they might not have known about, according to Hirschy.
“The more you can learn about the industry at large that you’re interested in,” she said, “the better you’re in the position to do the work the Lord has for you.”