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Smeal student leaders orchestrate Undergraduate Professional Development Business Conference

March 17, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State Smeal College of Business students recently had the opportunity to discuss professional development with student leaders across the region at the inaugural Undergraduate Professional Development Business Conference led by Smeal Student Council Vice President Michael Errichetti. 

The two-day conference, which took part via zoom and included business school student governments from the National Undergraduate Leadership Symposium, focused on promoting growth both professionally and personally. 

“I wanted to think of a way to connect student leaders from other business schools where we could all come together to enhance our leadership acumen for the prosperity of our respective institutions,” Errichetti said. 

After hatching the idea in summer 2020, Errichetti spent the fall semester planning the events’ details with the help of Dean Charles H. Whiteman, Ashley Rippey, director of the Business Career Center, and the Smeal Student Council. 

“I thought the event was a great learning opportunity for our student leadership when it comes to understanding logistics necessary to lead an event like this in addition to the collaborative learning and networking they would be doing with students from other institutions,” Rippey said.  

According to Errichetti, the highlight of the event was Friday’s Dean’s Panel which featured deans from Michigan State Broad College of Business, Indiana University Kelly School of Business and University of Illinois Gies College of Business, as well as Whiteman. This portion allowed for the deans to discuss the trajectory of their careers, while providing advice to student leaders. 

Whiteman provided attendees with valuable insight on the importance of learning. 

“For this generation, it’s vitally important you leave our institutions prepared to learn more as your career goes on, and all of the business schools represented here can help you throughout your lifetime to continue learning,” he said. “Smeal values lifelong learning and we’re delivering on it by creating opportunities for you. Getting your degree is just the beginning.” 

Chief Development Officer of Mariott International Eric Jacobs was the first speaker of the event and navigated topics of career exploration, effective leadership and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“There is no better time than college to build insight in an industry of your interest,” Jacobs said when discussing the value of intellectual curiosity. 

Jacobs also emphasized the importance of diversifying the workplace, advising students to take advantage of their college experiences to meet people from around the world and broaden their perspectives.

Julie McHugh, chair of Smeal’s Board of Visitors and the retired chief operating officer of Endo Pharmaceuticals, led a discussion about mentor-mentee relationships and upward mobility in the workplace.  

“Professional development is self-discovery — find what you are passionate about,” McHugh said. “Look for opportunities outside of your environment to expand your perspective.” 

In addition to the notable speakers, the event also allotted time for various professional workshops and breakout sessions, equipping students with knowledge regarding topics like socially responsible leadership and strategic thinking. 

“There were many personal takeaways students left with from workshops that broadened their understanding of what exactly impacts leadership and how they can leverage their individual strengths while recognizing their weaknesses to be a more cohesive student government,” Errichetti said. 

Errichetti said the event’s success was evident from the reactions of attendees from the various schools that participated. 

“I’m extremely grateful to have been an attendee of this phenomenal conference,” Kelly School of Business student Phillip Borhani said. “Whether it was interacting with my fellow student leaders or listening to successful business professionals and leaders, every activity provided a new opportunity to learn.” 

Although just two days, this conference demonstrated Smeal’s commitment to its student leadership and the college’s consistent dedication toward professional development opportunities.   

“I envision the conference as an annual event and will have the Smeal Student Council's Development Department adopt the responsibility of facilitating it to ensure its sustainability,” Errichetti said.

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