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Business students learn from elite leaders

Business students learn from elite leaders
Jinyoung Kim (left) chose to interview Aaliyah Shafiq (right), a brand manager for the Coca-Cola Company.

For a project in their Leadership in Business course, students in the University of North Georgia's (UNG) Mike Cottrell College of Business interviewed exceptional leaders in regional, national and international positions with companies such as Coca-Cola and Nike to learn about the path from student to executive.

The course is taught by Rose Procter, director for the BB&T Center for Ethical Leadership. Procter said that when she assigned the project, the students did not expect to get interviews with such high-caliber executives, but she encouraged them to try.

"As I started working with the students around their passions, I pushed them to interview a leader that aligned with where they want to be in their careers," Procter said. "These are some really big names in the business world, but I advised the students that these leaders are always passionate about helping the next generation. Many students are already seeing the positive impacts of those interviews, including job opportunities and mentoring."

Jinyoung Kim is a business major from Sogang University in South Korea currently studying at UNG through an exchange program between the two universities. She chose to interview Aaliyah Shafiq, a brand manager for the Coca-Cola Company.

"I chose her because I want to work for a global company and I am interested in marketing and sales," Kim said. "I learned a lot in the interview, such as the reality of her job is a bit shocking, and not what I expected. She told me to challenge myself and do what makes me happy during college. This was helpful because I had been confused about whether I should keep certain activities such as music club or political science classes, because they had seemed irrelevant to my future career. Now I believe I have done well, and will follow what I am passionate about during college."

Britni Howard, a senior majoring in psychology, chose to interview Sloane Evans, vice president of human resources with Georgia Power.

Howard said she learned far more than she could have imagined during the interview, and that Evans' passion and curiosity for the field of human resources has made her excited for her own future. At the end of the interview, Evans offered to continue being Howard's mentor for as long as she likes.

"I also learned that it is important to focus on which field of human resources I want to pursue because there are so many," Howard said. "The best overall advice that she gave me was to always be curious, and to never feel that your curiosity is stupid. Many people refrain from learning or asking questions because they don't want to appear ignorant, but she told me to never fear that."

The leader interview is only one assignment in the course. Procter also launched an "Executive Challenge" to give real-world application and experience to students based on leadership lessons, including competencies in fear, decision-making, ethics, communication, awareness, culture, and many others. The Executive Challenge incorporated three responsibilities seen within the duties of typical business leaders: presenting to a Board of Directors around strategic direction, firing personnel and being able to debate a controversial issue amongst a leadership team. The students convened to explore the three simulated leadership challenges together.

The Leadership in Business course is an undergraduate elective offered through the Mike Cottrell College of Business, and also satisfies elective requirements for the UNG Leadership Minor.

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