Inaugural cohort of the PIP Academy tour the Merryman Athletic Center. Virginia Tech photo

The Pamplin College of Business Office for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) recently wrapped their first-ever Pamplin’s Inspiring Possibilities (PIP) Academy. The 10-day residential program introduced 27 rising high school seniors—many of whom come from underrepresented and underserved communities—to the dynamic world of business and business careers.

“This inaugural year exceeded all of my expectations,” said Janice Branch Hall, assistant dean for Pamplin College of Business DEIB. “I enjoyed engaging with the participants and learning from them, especially the newest, hippest dance moves for this generation. It’s hard to decide my favorite part of the academy because each day was a unique experience with engagement from a diverse group of experts in the field.”

The academy kicked off July 7 with a dinner at The Inn at Virginia Tech and featured a keynote address by Sherman Lea, mayor of the City of Roanoke. The following days were filled with activities and experiences designed to immerse the students in the whole Virginia Tech campus experience.

According to Hall, the purpose of the PIP Academy was to “enhance access and create pathways for diverse high school students to gain hands-on knowledge and experience into the many possibilities the business world has to offer.” She added that the program also aims to prepare students for life and success as college students.

“PIP Academy has shown me in detail what different majors are about and some possible career options,” said Alexandria, Va., native Ethan Mutterperl, a rising senior at Hayfield Secondary School. “It has also helped me get a small taste of what college life is like: living in dorms, eating in dining halls, going to lectures, etc.”

Students were treated to professional headshots, business etiquette luncheons, team-building exercises, and introductions to different departments and programs within Pamplin College of Business. The participants engaged with Pamplin faculty, alumni, and corporate partners and interacted with current Pamplin students. They toured campus facilities and attended special sessions in professional development, admissions, financial aid, study abroad, and wellness.

“I have enjoyed my experience here at Virginia Tech and my time in this program immensely,” said Kaitlyn Couvillon, a student at Gainesville High School in Gainesville, Va. “This experience has offered me incredibly helpful insight into my college and even professional career, and everyone at this program was genuinely interested in helping me to discover my passion.”

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Each student's experience in the academy culminated with a team-based business simulation project, sponsored by education technology company Capsim. The activity gave students a hands-on experience to apply business concepts in an immersive, real-world environment and ended with a presentation on the final day of the academy. Ron Poff and Denise Cordova, assistant professors of practice in Management, helped lead the teams.

Bob McDonald, director of sales at Capsim, helped judge the team presentations. “The PIP student presentations were impressive,” said McDonald. “Each student group learned via the CapsimCore business simulation key strategic and financial approaches while also developing team-building skills that are essential to career success.”

The PIP Academy concluded July 16 with the team project presentations and a luncheon at The Inn at Virginia Tech. The luncheon featured keynote speaker Michael Robinson, executive director and complex manager with Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, and a member of the Pamplin Advisory Council.

“At first I was hesitant to come here because it was out of my comfort zone,” said Gainesville High School student Toni Middlebrooks. “Now that it is over, I have appreciated this experience because I have never done anything like this. The strategic planning and organization of this program were so amazing that I feel as though I am a Hokie.”

The PIP Academy experience wasn’t all business for the prospective business students. Each day featured time for group recreational activities, whether they be bowling, a visit to a local trampoline park, or a team building exercises with Venture Out.

“I gained lots of knowledge and experience through my time interacting and connecting with such like-minded and bright individuals,” said Yafet Getachew of Hayfield Secondary School. “The amount of laughs I’ve shared with the new friends I made is something I will always remember.”

Each student selected to participate in the academy has a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0 out of 4.0 (or its equivalent grading scale), and all submitted a statement of interest. Students had all costs of attendance covered, including room and board.

PIP Academy students tour the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute. Virginia Tech photo

“It’s been a great experience. I loved how we were able to meet so many professionals and alumni,” said Rusheel Nadipally from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Va. “The PIP Academy helped me develop my network and meet many more people.”

Some of the people the students were able to network with included City of Roanoke Mayor Lea, Vice Mayor Patricia White-Boyd, and Wayne Leftwich, assistant to the city manager. Representatives from PIP Academy sponsor KPMG were on-hand, as were representatives from corporate partner PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

Students were also able to engage with Pamplin board members Mervyn Alphonso, Brandon Rule, Bill Chapman, and Brian Wells from the Blackwood Program in Real Estate, Eric Johnston and Errol Alexander from Howard Feiertag Department of Hospitality & Tourism Management, and Jamie Harvey, a tax partner with PwC Trust Solutions and Pamplin alumna.

“My experience has been great, and I am happy with the outcome because I learned a lot about business and met a lot of Pamplin faculty and business professionals,” said Langley High School’s Sidrah Asghar from McClean, Va.

The positive impact of the PIP Academy may have also resulted in a potential Hokie.

“I enjoyed attending PIP Academy this summer,” said Sarah Purdy, a student at Osbourn Park High School in Manassas, Va. “It provided me such a unique and valuable opportunity that I could not have gotten anywhere else and has fully sold me on attending Virginia Tech and applying for Pamplin.”

According to Hall, the success of the inaugural PIP Academy is something that can be built upon.

“The future of the PIP Academy is bright,” said Hall. “We have created a solid pathway to educate and inspire future business leaders and we hope to garner greater support to expand PIP and broaden our pre-collegiate experiences in Pamplin—the future of business depends on this work.”

Group photo of the participants in the inaugural PIP Academy. Photo by Jim Dickhans for Virginia Tech.