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School of Business alumni return to share knowledge and experience with students

Thursday, October 25, 2012

LAWRENCE — The Student Alumni Association welcomed University of Kansas School of Business alumni for a night of dinner and networking with current students. On Oct. 4, at the Adams Alumni Center, "Dinner with a Dozen Business 'Hawks," allowed students to personally interact with former Jayhawks who are in the trenches of the business world. Alumni classes ranged from 1976 to 2011, so professionals from many different points in their careers shared advice that made them successful and stories of decisions that didn't work so well.

Neeli Bendapudi, dean of the School of Business, gave the keynote address and, she pointed out, that she, too, is a School of Business alumna. During her speech, she emphasized three questions students should ask themselves during their career. Are you happy, are you learning, and are you adding value? Answer yes to these three questions, she said, and you will be happy and productive in your job.

Students picked their dinner seats based on who or what company about which they wanted to learn more. One alumnus sat at each table to answer questions and socialize with the students. After the dinner, a panel discussion with the alumni covered topics such as getting involved in campus life, integrity and advice from life experiences. One student asked how to produce accountability from your employees while at the same time earning their respect. Blaine Weeks, chief financial officer of Geiger Ready-Mix Company, said to put yourself in their shoes and view your decisions from their point of view.

"People you work with come and go," said Howard Cohen, audit partner-in-charge, when asked about what motivates him, "but in the end, your reputation stays with you."

All of the alumni had something to say about the one thing they would do if they started college all over again. Popular answers included talking to students, talking to faculty and taking advantage of the opportunities given by the Business Career Services Center.

"Don't wait," said Andrew Ek, manager of college relations at Koch Industries. "Your professional career has already started. Take some risks and challenge yourself."

Mark Willoughby, owner of Smart Business Solutions, said that while a good grade point average is important, just as much focus should be put into actually learning.

"Sometimes dinner with a dozen 'hawks is general, so we have a lot of different groups represented," said Teri Harris, director of membership for the KU Alumni Association, "or we'll do specialized dinners like we did tonight for the School of Business."

It's easy to get alumni to come back for the events, she said, because they all want to share their knowledge and experience with students.

The next dinner is "Dinner with a Dozen Journalism 'Hawks," at the Adams Alumni Center on Nov. 7 at 6:30 p.m. The event is free with registration and is open to any student, regardless of major. To sign, up click here.

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