Pamplin alumni: foundation of success

Pamplin Alumni: Foundation of Success

From left: Lynn Anderson (FIN ’07), co-chair, Recent Alumni Board; Jim Hatch (MACCT ’72), president, Pamplin Advisory Council; David Lowe (BAD ’63), chair, Master of Information Technology Advisory Board; Yusuf Abugideiri (FIN ’09), co-chair, Recent Alumni Board

ACC Basketball Legend Wayne Robinson has spoken at diversity workshops on campus.

ACC Basketball Legend Wayne Robinson has spoken at diversity workshops on campus.

In a phone call and subsequent email to Pamplin dean Robert Sumichrast, Wayne Robinson (FIN ’80) shared some ideas on how the college could strengthen its commitment to inclusion and diversity.

Robinson, who is the senior pastor of New Millennium Christian Center in Greensboro, North Carolina, triad area director of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and member of the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors, passed along contact information for some people he knew, including a Virginia Tech alumna whom he thought could be a helpful addition to the Pamplin Advisory Council.

Sarah Bartlett (HTM ’97), a vice president at hotelAVE, dropped a quick note to Nancy McGehee, head of Pamplin’s hospitality and tourism management department, to alert her about an internship at her hotel asset management firm. “The job description was recently adjusted so this individual can work remotely,” Bartlett wrote. “If you have any students that may be interested, please let me know.”

Writing accounting and information systems department head Reza Barkhi, Chor-Ching Fan (ACCT ’96), a principal at Marketlocity, noted that “analytics is going through a major shift, from more of an IT-driven style to self-service, where the users are empowered by technology.”

This “sea change” brings a host of governance and other issues, some of which would be excellent topics for courses, Fan wrote. “If you see the need for additional guidance and support in this area, I’d be glad to step up and help. Just let me know.”

These communications are just a few of the diverse ways in which Pamplin alumni and friends, particularly those serving on its various advisory groups, interact with Sumichrast, his department heads, and other Pamplin faculty and staff throughout the year to advance the college.

Service is a source of strength

Like other business schools across the country, Pamplin established such groups with the aim of regularly receiving counsel and ideas from alumni and friends who would also serve as its links and advocates to the business and professional communities, students, other alumni, and others.

“We can establish positive relationships with business and university leaders to enhance the visibility of Pamplin alumni and to demonstrate the value of a strong business education at Virginia Tech,” said Jim Hatch (MACCT ’72), president of the Pamplin Advisory Council, the largest and most senior-level of the college’s alumni advisory groups.

PAC, as it’s usually called, currently has 65 members who include CEOs, presidents, and partners of multinational firms, owners of small and regional businesses, and retired executives.

Kevin Lane, a principal with Deloitte, chairs PAC’s student career services committee.

Kevin Lane, a principal with Deloitte, chairs PAC’s student career services committee.

Members work in four standing committees: cabinet, student recruitment, career services, and alumni engagement. They gather for a general meeting each fall with the dean and other college administrators but also convene separately at other times. In addition to volunteering their time and expertise, PAC members also donate financially to the college.

Other Pamplin advisory groups are boards for each of its six academic departments; a Recent Alumni Board, launched last year to expand programs and opportunities for students and promote closer ties with younger alums; and a reorganized R.B. Pamplin Society, to continue to engage former PAC members and other alumni and friends.

“Our advisory groups allow us to get more dialogue and meaningful engagement with our alumni,” said Sumichrast. “We’re doing real work in support of Pamplin,” Hatch said, “not just basking in the honor of being recognized to serve on an important advisory committee.”

Alumni guidance, Sumichrast said, is wide ranging but is most evident in curriculum development, student recruitment and retention, placement, and philanthropy.

Shaping the curriculum

PAC guidance years ago helped the college set a strategic emphasis on technology, international business, and leadership education. Alumni were consulted when Sumichrast crafted the college’s strategic plan recently and have backed the decision to pursue business intelligence and analytics, and innovation and entrepreneurship as specialty focus areas, in addition to international business.

Experience leads to inspiration

At the department level, courses and programs have also been inspired or supported by discussions with advisory boards.

The finance department, for example, created a course on financial modeling and is exploring opportunities to further expand content related to data analytics, thanks in part to suggestions from its board members, said finance head Vijay Singal.

“The Careers in Finance course was initiated 7-8 years ago, based on board input,” he added. “It was recently made mandatory for all finance majors again, based on a recommendation from our board.”

The new M.S. in business, with a concentration in hospitality and tourism management, said department head McGehee, was developed and based in Virginia Tech’s National Capital Region campus, in large part due to recommendations by its board.

In addition to contributing to curriculum discussions, alumni volunteer their time and talents in many other ways, including serving as speakers in classes, workshops, and conferences; interacting with students as entrepreneurs-in-residence; or simply keeping college officials in the loop on what’s new in their industry or profession by passing along relevant reports.

Accounting and information systems head Barkhi regularly receives white papers from board members, which he shares with his faculty as possible teaching tools. One faculty member, he noted, recently developed a case for her audit class as a result.

Alumni working at Deloitte, he said, have also provided access to enterprise software to allow students in one class to gain “first-hand experience with SAP internal controls and analytics.”

Taking the LEAP

Longtime PAC members Harrison Jones and Mark Spencer (not pictured) helped develop the LEAP curriculum.

Longtime PAC members Harrison Jones and Mark Spencer (not pictured) helped develop the LEAP curriculum.

Alumni efforts led to a Pamplin program to help incoming students transition from high school to college. Known as LEAP, the initiative gave entering students from under-represented groups pointers on effective study habits, time management, supportive networks, and campus resources.

PAC members Harrison Jones and Mark Spencer (FIN ’92) “put in many hours, personally assisting with curriculum development of LEAP,” recalled Candi Clemenz, associate dean for undergraduate programs. “Other PAC members contributed financially to initiate the first cohort of 32 students in 2011.”

The program was held for four summers, Clemenz said, and introduced some 200 students to Virginia Tech before they entered as freshmen in the fall. To date, approximately 300 students have benefited from LEAP.

A consulting firm principal, Bob Lam serves on PAC’s student recruitment committee.

A consulting firm principal, Bob Lam serves on PAC’s student recruitment committee.

In student recruitment, a suggestion from PAC member Bob Lam (GBUS ’75, MBA ’77) resulted in the development of a video to enhance recruitment efforts. Clemenz believes it was “an effective closer that increased our fall 2015 freshman yield.”

Making a career connection

Alumni have certainly had a role in the college’s placement success. Those who work as recruiters help hire Pamplin students for jobs and internships at their companies and encourage or ensure their employers’ participation in the college’s Business Horizons career fair.

And, whether as recruiters or not, alumni serve as primary sources about the skills currently in demand in the workplace.

A lasting investment

It is in fundraising, perhaps, that alumni involvement has its most far-reaching impact on the college. In addition to personal contributions to endow scholarships, professorships, and educational programs, many alumni have helped organize gifts that would be matched by their companies and led efforts for corporate sponsorship of professorships and programs.

Shirley Edwards, a partner at Ernst & Young, is PAC vice president.

Shirley Edwards, a partner at Ernst & Young, is PAC vice president.

The Ernst & Young Partners Fund for Excellence in Accounting and Information Systems, for example, resulted from an initiative by nine alumni to endow a fund in which their individual gifts would be matched by their employer. Those alumni include Shirley Edwards (ACCT ’82), who currently serves as PAC vice president.

More recently, the college received a commitment from KPMG to boost its professorship endowment fund at Virginia Tech to more than $1 million.

Lynne Doughtie and Greg Thompson served as PAC presidents. Thompson currently chairs the cabinet.

Lynne Doughtie and Greg Thompson served as PAC presidents. Thompson currently chairs the cabinet.

The increase reflects new gift commitments secured through the efforts of alumni partners, including KPMG chairman and CEO Lynne Doughtie (ACCT ’85) and Chris Xystros (ACCT ’84). The endowment increase will also include matching gift dollars contributed by the KPMG Foundation.

Yet another Big Four firm, Deloitte, created a video to promote an internal philanthropic initiative to benefit Virginia Tech and Pamplin.

The video features Deloitte professionals who are alumni, talking about their experiences at the university and the firm.

“The idea is to get people in the spirit of giving back by reminding them of what’s special about Virginia Tech and Pamplin, and how it supports their professional development at Deloitte,” said Kevin Lane (ACCT ’95, MACCT ’00), a principal at Deloitte.

“We are also reinforcing the theme of coming together as a firm to do something significant.”

The gift of giving

The college undoubtedly receives many benefits from engaging its alumni. Alumni themselves note that they are driven by a desire to give back, in appreciation of the education they received and its contribution to their professional success.

“I am indebted to Virginia Tech and Pamplin for the education that prepared me so well for my career in banking,” said PAC president Hatch, who retired as corporate controller of Wachovia Corp. before it was acquired by Wells Fargo.

He now dedicates much of his time to serving on PAC and philanthropic initiatives and, having established many strong friendships with other alumni, “expanding Pamplin’s outreach to its alumni constituency.”

An enhanced experience

Said Yusuf Abugideiri (FIN ’09), a financial planner with Yeske Buie: “I was extremely fortunate to have met several people who became instrumental to my development — professors, academic advisors, and other professionals. Without their mentorship, my experience at Tech would have been much less robust, and I would not have ended up where I am today.”

Abugideiri, who co-chairs Pamplin’s Recent Alumni Board, is delighted to have the opportunity now to mentor a current student or recent graduate. “To be able to do so in a way that benefits Hokie Nation just makes it that much sweeter.”

Urging other recent graduates to get involved, Abugideiri said “it’s an incredibly fulfilling way to connect with others, be it students or other professionals.”

Lam, who joined PAC in 2014, noted: “It’s wonderful to be connected with others that share my passion for Pamplin and Virginia Tech.” Being able to “network with other business leaders who are passionate Hokies” is certainly a draw for PAC vice president Edwards as well.

But “giving back to the university that has given me so much is just the right thing to do,” said Edwards, who has stayed involved with Virginia Tech since graduation through recruiting, advisory board, and fundraising activities.

“Serving on the Pamplin Advisory Council is the pinnacle of this commitment. It allows me to have an impact on the college and ensure that future students have the same opportunities I was afforded.”

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