Experience Speaks: Getting Board Members Involved in the Curriculum

A career development program at the Grove College fosters links between advisory boards and students.
Experience Speaks: Getting Board Members Involved in the Curriculum
HOW CAN A BUSINESS SCHOOL become more engaged with students to provide an enriching educational experience? One answer: Create more opportunities for advisory board members to share their expertise with students. That’s what faculty at Shippensburg University’s Grove College of Business in Pennsylvania did in the spring of 2015, when they invited advisory board members to offer career advice to students in Foundations of Business Administration. The two-credit required course enrolls approximately 160 to 200 undergraduates each semester.

Seven board members each conducted three small group sessions, with ten students in each session. These senior-level executives and business owners shared their expertise on the qualities of effective résumés, highlighting their own résumés as well as strong examples from individuals at their companies. They also reviewed each student’s résumé, completed earlier as a course assignment, and offered recommendations for improvement.

“Our board members advised students on soft skills such as communication, problem solving, and accountability—on the importance of simple things like making eye contact and having a firm handshake,” says Irma Hunt, assistant professor of information technology. “They let students know that these things carry real weight.”

She adds that faculty were surprised when some advisory board members asked for specific rubrics to score the résumés. “The executives wanted to provide academic feedback for students, too,” she explains, “not just practical advice.”

The board members also checked the social media profiles of each student in their sessions to look for inconsistencies between the content of their profiles and their résumés. For instance, one board member pointed out that a student in his group identified herself as a biology major on LinkedIn but as a management major on her résumé. He warned that, when hiring managers note such inconsistencies, they might move on to the next candidate.

The board members then selected the best résumé from each session. The school held a luncheon for the 18 students who were singled out, where they interacted with faculty, deans, and the advisory board.

Afterward, when students in the course were surveyed about their experiences, 98 percent noted that they appreciated the board members’ insights into what employers look for in an effective application and what skills were required to excel as business professionals.

“We also learned that students want more from the advisory board!” Hunt adds. Many students asked for more networking sessions with board members related to career preparation.

The Grove College of Business plans to continue offering the résumé review and luncheon in collaboration with its advisory board, not only to enrich its students’ experience and improve their skills, but also to strengthen the relationship between the advisory board and the school. “We’ve learned that our board members are eager to collaborate with faculty to prepare our students for the business world,” says Hunt. “They told us that student interactions like the résumé review were the reason they were on our board.”