To help business students understand how they can grow their careers during and after earning a degree, a panel of regional business leaders visited the Mike Cottrell College of Business at the University of North Georgia (UNG) to share their own experiences and answer student questions.
The students are in a business course co-taught by Dr. Donna Mayo, dean of the Mike Cottrell College of Business at UNG, and Perry Tomlinson, executive in residence of the college's Center for Ethical Business Leadership. The course, "Leadership in Business," provides a practical view of business leadership, personal ethics in business, networking, and theory and implementation of various leadership topics. Many of the topics are presented from the perspective of current business professionals attending as guest speakers.
"This course has brought a number of opportunities for our business students to speak with current regional business executives," Mayo said. "This panel discussion in particular gave students the opportunity to ask questions that are of interest to them individually. These types of experiences have a huge impact on students and the way that they approach their future careers."
The panel members included Philip Wilheit, president and CEO of Wilheit Packing Inc. of Gainesville and chairman of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia; Lynn Jackson, administrator of Northside Forsyth Hospital in Cumming; and Counte Cooley, owner of Electronic Sales Co. of Gainesville.
Panel members discussed key lessons learned throughout their development into successful business leaders. Wilheit recounted his discoveries in learning how to keep his business relevant while enduring tests of leadership. Cooley advised students to remember that they are constantly selling themselves and their projects, and discussed his tactic of buying lunch for the region's most successful business leaders so he could talk with them and learn from their expertise. Jackson discussed her transition from registered nurse to hospital administrator, and how she learned a different style of leadership and the value of mentorship.
"No leader can honestly say that no one helped them get to where they are," Jackson said.
The panel members also highlighted their top leadership values, a list that included integrity, teamwork, compassion, strong work ethic, a consultative attitude, and developing smart processes.
The students said they enjoyed the personal atmosphere of the panel.
"This was a great opportunity," said Lauren Nicole Regan, a junior and Cottrell Scholar majoring in accounting and management. "This kind of personal, question-and-answer style interaction really helps us to connect lessons from our textbooks to the real world."
Questions from the students covered many topics, but centered on how to secure a good job.
"Be concerned about your prospective employer," Cooley said. "Ask them questions about how you can help them and excel in your position."
Wilheit added that students have one chance to make a good first impression in an interview and should take full advantage by using soft skills, like communication, that are critical to being successful. He also stressed the importance of professional appearance.
When asked about qualities of a good leader, Jackson related her views on grace, and how it can impact those around a person in a leadership position.
"Grace is defined as unmerited favor; one of the greatest things you can do as a leader is to give grace to others," Jackson said. "Be a person that other people want to follow."
Mayo and Tomlinson's class has hosted several other notable guest speakers throughout the semester, including UNG President Bonita Jacobs and State Sen. Butch Miller.