Last week, the Jepson School of Leadership Studies hosted the first-ever E.D.G.E. Institute, which seeks to connect alumni with current students to help them network and learn valuable business skills. The E.D.G.E. Institute—which stands for explore, develop, gain and exceed—is a program organized by associate dean of student and external affairs Kerstin M. Soderlund, alumni and students. The institute provided interactive presentations given primarily by Jepson alumni and ended with a networking reception.
Soderlund explained that E.D.G.E. began last year as a pilot program with just a few topics offered. She said that thanks to the active alumni and Jepson student body, the program was able to grow substantially in just a year.
The program was a joint effort between the Jepson faculty, Jepson Core—a group of students that helps the department with decision-making—and the Jepson Alumni Core—an organized group of alumni that aids the department.
Since last year, E.D.G.E. has grown in more ways than one. “It varies significantly in that last year there were probably six alumni helping, and this year there were about 25,” Soderlund said. “Students have more choice about the kinds of things that they want to listen or learn about.”
Two of the most popular topics covered, according to students present, were “Lessons Learned from Alumni” and “Jepson Elevator Pitch.”
“The most beneficial thing for me was the elevator pitch,” junior Mollie Reese said. She said describing the leadership degree could be difficult, so learning how to market it was important.
Jordan Chavez, a sophomore and business-leadership double major, said he found the E.D.G.E. Institute as helpful as Q-Camp, after attending both this year.
“They were both helpful in their own way,” Chavez said. “Q-Camp is more about what to do and not do, but E.D.G.E. offered a more in-depth, personal experience than Q-Camp.”
Chavez said Jepson puts more focus on the individual as one of its main tenets. He said it provided a more catered experience to each student.
“I attribute more of my success with my current role to the Jepson School rather than the Robins School of Business,” said Conor Flanagan, Richmond College ‘12. Flanagan, an alumnus participant in the program, graduated as a double major in business and leadership and now works for Altria in Richmond.
He said the main reason his leadership degree was relevant in the business world is the stress the department puts on communication, teamwork and critical thinking. He said in his line of work—brand management—writing is extremely important, which is an area he said the business school is lacking.
Flanagan added that the goal for the E.D.G.E. Institute was to offer different things than the business school. For example, he mentioned that E.D.G.E. offered a session about graduate school and what it entails.
Soderlund said because the institute was on campus, Jepson could keep the cost free for students and accommodate more people if need be. This year, there were about 69 registered students present, but Soderlund said she expected to be able to accommodate roughly 240 Jepson students in the future.
Contact reporter Richard Arnett at email@example.com