An Idea for Guest Speakers: Let Students Do the Asking

Professors often do the heavy lifting when it comes to bringing executive guest speakers to campus. But members of the student chapter of INFORMS at the University of Cincinnati’s Lindner College of Business take on that responsibility themselves.

Professors often do the heavy lifting when it comes to bringing executive guest speakers to campus. But members of the student chapter of INFORMS (Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences) at the University of Cincinnati’s Lindner College of Business in Ohio take on that responsibility themselves. For instance, when chapter officers discovered that the Analytics that Excite Conference would be held in Cincinnati last October, they looked at the conference agenda and sent email invitations to two speakers: Neil Hoyne, head of global consumer analytics for Google, and J.T. Kostman, chief data officer for Time Inc. Both executives accepted. As a result of a separate invitation, the students already had confirmed the participation of Kevin Kelley, a vice president at Great American Insurance Group, and were considering future possibilities.

Chapter advisor David Rogers, a professor of operations, business analytics, and information systems, encourages students to seek out possible guest speakers as often as they can, whether at church, sporting events, professional gatherings, or even online. He and the school help by scheduling space and providing funds when necessary. However, except for small gifts of appreciation, the school pays nothing for student-managed guest lectures. “I tell students to be gregarious and outgoing,” he says. “These speakers are graciously doing this because the students are asking—they want to give back.”

Rogers’ role is to prepare students in areas such as professional etiquette and networking. As the year goes on, students become more confident approaching executives; their interpersonal and presentation skills improve, and their introductions for guest speakers get stronger and more professional. Better yet, says Rogers, faculty can enjoy the events as members of the audience. “For faculty,” he says, “the plan is to stay out of the way!”