Valuable Partnerships

Students link up with leaders and explore the possibilities

From left are students Katie Ragan, Sean O’Brien and Keith Grayvold, who participated in the Business Externship Program at Haworth Inc., in Holland, Mich.

Each year, hundreds of students arrive on the campus of WMU eager to embrace college and make the transition to independent adult.

Many of these students know exactly what they want to study and the type of career they will pursue. They have a plan.

From left Albert Allison, MBA student, talks with mentor John Boll, BBA ’77, during the Business Advisory Council’s Mentorship Program kickoff event.

But what about the growing number of young adults who aren’t so sure?

“Our role as educators is to guide young students in exploring their interests and to give them a sound foundation of core business theory and knowledge, enabling them to turn those interests and talents into successful lives and careers,” says Dr. Kay Palan, dean of the College.

To fulfill this role, the College offers a variety of opportunities designed to encourage students to explore interests and understand how their personality and goals fit into academic areas and careers. “Research tells us that the earlier we engage students in hands-on career exploration, the greater chance we have of retaining them and guiding their decision-making about academic majors and career pathways,” says Linda Ickes, director of the College’s career center.

The Business Externship Program and the Business Advisory Council Mentor Programs provide such hands-on exploration.

“Pre-business students have trouble engaging in their education until they discover an academic major and career path that is a good fit,” says Geralyn Heystek, career advisor. “These programs help students engage.” She adds that students who participate in career exploration and leadership programs, student organizations and mentor opportunities find success more readily.

Externships are unpaid, job-shadowing experiences designed to offer younger students a chance to explore careers with the guidance of professional mentors in many industries. This year, over 40 companies are offering externships in an array of areas including banking, financial planning, human resources, logistics, service, information technology, manufacturing and more. Companies typically offer one- or two-day externships, but the program’s flexibility allows for a variety of arrangements.

“We need to reach out to exploring students regardless of experience or clarity of goals. These students often succeed once they find a path and become passionate about their goals.” — Geralyn Heystek

Like the Business Externship Program, the Business Advisory Council’s Mentorship Program pairs leaders with students. Upper-level undergraduate and graduate students participate in an effort designed to promote personal and professional growth. Students seek mentors who align with their interests and career aspirations. Over 50 students and 13 mentors are participating in this year’s program. “The program is a great way to help our students launch their careers,” says Sandra Lucie Doctor, MBA ’83, vice-president of the advisory council.

“One of the highlights of the program is when mentors share their backgrounds with the students,” says Doctor. “They share stories and advice on milestones that influenced their career path as well as personal stories about their own mentors.”

The attractiveness of the program lies in its flexibility. Mentors choose their level of participation. A mentor may help students navigate and understand corporate cultures and business decisions, transitions, career decisions and networking opportunities.

In addition, employers use these opportunities to evaluate talent for future internship employment. This more traditional opportunity is usually designed for students nearing the end of their academic career. “When a student’s interests and professional behavior ‘fit’ an organization, an extern or mentor experience can lead to an internship,” says Ickes.

If you are interested in serving as an alumni resource for students, contact Stacey Markin, alumni relations officer at 269-387-6936, or at


Successful leadership requires vision

Marisa Scally

One employer's insights into the impact of externs and interns

Formalizing extern and intern programs at Deere & Company pays off, says Kristy (Oleszkiewicz) Sabatos, BBA ’00, program manager, Crawlers Division, who represents the company’s recruiting efforts at WMU. For years, the company has worked with interns and has hired many of them. Now, the company has added the WMU Business Externship Program as a way of helping students discover what a career at Deere entails.

Deere’s ultimate goal is to connect with top talent early and enable students to take on meaningful work experiences during their educational years.

Kristy Sabatos

“Just as students gain tremendous experience during their externships and internships, Deere learns from the students. We find new solutions to old problems and drive continuous improvement within our operations,” says Sabatos.

“We find that participation strengthens the learning in the classroom and prepares students to join our team upon graduation,” she says.

Finding a good “fit” and learning about a profession are common goals for students. The Deere program introduces students to Deere systems, culture and operations so that the transition to full-time employment is smoother.

“From day one I knew that I had decided to work for a company that strives for excellence and has outstanding employees. I knew that wherever I was placed it would be a great fit with co-workers who truly care about my professional development,” says Marisa Scally, BBA ’10, indirect materials and services project coordinator.

“The caliber of WMU students is high and their supply-chain specific coursework provides us with successful interns,” says Sabatos, who, in 1998, was the company’s first supply management intern from WMU.

Exploring Globally

Leingpibul (back row, second from left) and WMU students with villagers who run the agricultural tourism effort on Yao Island, Thailand.

Exposing students to international opportunities heightens their awareness of the global economy and provides still another opportunity to explore the world. Dr. Thaweephan “Duke” Leingpibul helped a group of Food & CPG Marketing students understand culture and opportunities in Thailand.

“Business is about finding opportunities. In the community we visited, the people don’t know how to market and sell their goods and services to the world,” says Leingpibul. Students immersed themselves in three villages with diverse opportunities — a fishing village turned scuba destination, World Heritage site in Laos with cultural products, and an elephant rescue village that could not support its mission.

The students wrote business plans to help demonstrate what sells and what does not sell and the types of seafood that are not attractive to westerners (like mud crab). Once the business plan was finished, the students created brochures to help market the products.

Students take part in Domino's Discovery Day

Alumnus Kyle Tabata shows Advertising Student, Terrence Wakefield, how to make pizza

Business students and faculty recently spent a day at Domino’s Pizza corporate headquarters in Ann Arbor, Mich., as part of a development program that the corporation presents for college students.

Domino’s President and CEO J. Patrick Doyle, and vice presidents from the departments spoke to approximately 20 students as part of the program. The leadership talked about Domino’s global brand and the opportunities that exist for summer internships, as well as career paths for graduating seniors. “The students also experienced ‘hands-on’ how to make pizzas in the Domino’s kitchen,” says Dr. Karen Lancendorfer, assistant professor of marketing and one of the participating faculty members. “Domino’s philosophy is that effective leaders know about every aspect of the business, so the pizza-making experience is a vital part of the program.”

Domino’s approached Linda Ickes, director of the Career Center – Haworth College of Business, in order to establish relationships that would be beneficial to both students and faculty. They requested that professors select and accompany students who are at the top of their class. Domino’s employees and WMU alumni Amanda Green, BBA ’08, Stephanie Raupp, BBA, ’04, and Kyle Tabata, BBA, ’07, were also on hand for the event.

Valuable Partnerships

Students majoring in Food and Consumer Package Goods Marketing travel throughout the Great Lakes Region each spring as part of an intensive Survey of Food/CPG Industries course which exposes them to many facets of the food industry.

Older students engaging and mentoring younger students :
By introducing younger students to registered student organizations during the student-run Business Bash, hosted each semester by the Student Leadership Advisory Board, RSO leaders encourage participation, bolster membership and develop future organization leaders.

Haworth College of Business
2100 Schneider Hall
Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5457 USA
(269) 387-5050 | (269) 387-5710 Fax