Being in a meeting with dozens of accomplished industry professionals and veteran academic officials may make some undergraduates a little anxious. Intimidated, even. Not Ben Kennedy.

Kennedy, a finance senior, addressed a breakout session at the Pamplin Engagement Summit, after a department head expressed a wish for student assistance with advisory board activities and other volunteer outreach as well as regret that not all students are comfortable interacting with alumni. There can be an “intimidation factor,” the administrator noted.

As if on cue, Kennedy, who is co-president of the Dean’s Advisory Board of Students, introduced himself to the meeting participants and offered to provide more information about his group to anyone interested. “If you’re looking for those great students that are rocking and rolling in your department,” he declared, “they are on the Dean’s Advisory Board of Students.”

These students have succeeded academically, he said, and are in leadership roles in the organizations for their major. “If you want to contact them, reach out to me.” Kennedy then gave out his cell phone number, repeated it for good measure, and invited people to call.

His own confidence aside, Kennedy acknowledged that “engaging with business leaders or professionals is very intimidating for a lot of students.” He added: “It is usually something we do not have practice with. We spend so much time around people our age that it can become uncomfortable to speak with successful adults. Even though business leaders or professionals want to engage with students, it is easy for the student to feel like they will mess it up somehow and just avoid the interaction.”

What motivated him to speak up was that “we have exactly what they were looking for. Our members come from all over Pamplin and have already taken steps to improve Pamplin, so the interest is there as well.”

Paving a Path for Future Hokies

Kennedy, who joined the student board in September 2018 “because I wanted to make Pamplin better for Hokies to come,” has been co-president since May 2019, sharing duties with Neha Shah.

Forging ties with alumni can benefit students greatly, notes Kennedy, who has chosen the Certified Financial Planner option and is an officer in the Virginia Tech student chapter of the Financial Planning Association. “In the Financial Planning Association, most of what we do is build networks between students and alumni. We have presenters from industry come in every week. This is how students build connections — many of them find their jobs through these presenters.”

And though getting employed is important, Kennedy advises his fellow students not to lose sight of networking’s other possible values. “I haven’t seen students make a lot of connections with alumni for the sake of mentorship. Rather, it seems to be the alumnus is in the field or at the company the student wants to be at, so that is why they end up connecting. Ongoing mentorship isn’t fostered when students are just looking for a job.”

He recalls some reassuring mentorship he received from one such connection last year. He had accepted a summer internship with the Golub Group near San Francisco and felt nervous about his upcoming transition.

“One of the presenters had lived in Virginia his whole life like I had and was moving out there. We exchanged contacts and talked about what we were nervous about, excited for, and what prompted the change. Talking with him through his transition and moving to a place where he did not know anyone made my own transition a lot smoother.”

“As students, it is awesome to have our input taken seriously by the dean of our college,” said Kennedy, who also served on Pamplin’s strategic planning task force. “Being on the board, we can see the changes that ideas from our meetings have had, and it feels good knowing that you are never too young to make a meaningful contribution.”

– Sookhan Ho

About the Dean’s Advisory Board of Students

  • Mission: To provide a student perspective on the challenges and opportunities that face the Pamplin College of Business
  • Members: 20
  • Selection: Each Pamplin student organization gets two nominations, and the nominees are interviewed. “We look for students that are passionate and engaged, and a diverse membership,” Kennedy said.
  • Activities: “We meet monthly during the semester to advise the dean on a variety of topics,” Kennedy said. “We are building our website and exploring a potential large-scale mentorship program. We attended the Pamplin Engagement Summit and the Pamplin holiday party and have started to form committees. People are putting in more time outside of our regular meetings than before. It is great to see what comes out of a room full of Pamplin’s most successful students.”