Creating pathways and promoting success: Pamplin concludes second-annual PIP Academy
The Pamplin College of Business Office for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) recently concluded its second-annual Pamplin’s Inspiring Possibilities (PIP) Academy. The 10-day residential program introduced 27 rising high school seniors – many from underrepresented and underserved communities – to the dynamic world of business and business careers, aligning with the second goal of Pamplin’s Implementation Plan for Strategic Initiative 5.6, Build a Model Inclusive Community: to achieve representational diversity in Pamplin.
The academy kicked off July 6 with the opening dinner at The Inn at Virginia Tech and featured a keynote address by Pamplin alumnus, Randy Lucas ’91, M.S. ’92, Pamplin Advisory Council Member and principal consultant for Lucas Tax and Energy Consulting. Lucas reflected on his experience as a Hokie with students, shared how they belonged at Virginia Tech and how they can thrive and succeed in Pamplin. Lucas shared his “five Bs” with students: tips for belonging, be a reader, be a critical thinker, be a researcher, be a problem solver, and be a difference maker.
"It was an honor to be invited back to campus to provide the keynote address to open this year's Pamplin Inspiring Possibilities Academy,” said Lucas. “I wanted these high achieving students from diverse backgrounds to see a living, real example of a product of Pamplin and Virginia Tech from a similar diverse background.”
He continued, “I credit my experience here in Pamplin and VT to help prepare for my transition in my career to embrace the changes, which lead to my leap into entrepreneurship and consulting in sustainability as a CPA. The PIP Academy is very challenging and provides great opportunities to learn about the many facets of business education at Pamplin. I found the group to be very engaged and impressive. This is the importance of PIP and the lasting impressions it can have for student success.”
The following days were filled with activities and experiences designed to immerse students in the Virginia Tech campus experience. According to Janice Branch Hall, associate dean for DEIB in Pamplin, 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 lifeand success as college students.
Students were treated to professional headshots, a business etiquette luncheon, team-building exercises, and introductions to the seven academic departments and programs within the 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 hosted by Pamplin Career Services, Hokie Wellness, Student Opportunities & Achievement Resources Program (SOAR), APEX Center for Entrepreneurs, and International Programs.
Students had the opportunity to participate in a meet-and-greet with Saonee Sarker, dean for Pamplin College of Business, tour the Merryman Athletic Center, and experience the new Data and Decision Sciences Building, the first building in the Global Business and Analytics Complex, often referred to as GBAC, a $250 million Boundless Impact presidential priority project, opening in Fall 2023.
Each student’s experience in the academy culminated with a team-based business simulation project, sponsored by education technology company Capsim. The project offered students an experiential learning opportunity where they could apply business concepts in an immersive, real-world environment. Ron Poff, assistant department head in the Department of Management, and Denise Cordova, assistant professor of practice in Management, lead the teams.
“I had an amazing experience at the PIP Academy because I was able to explore various fields of business to find a major that I was interested in,” said Urmi Chheda. “Not only this, but I experienced so much about the life of a college student, and I created lasting friendships and connections here.”
The PIP Academy concluded July 15 with team project presentations and a luncheon at the Inn at Virginia Tech with students, families, and friends in attendance, as well as a special visit from the HokieBird. The luncheon featured keynote speaker Krystal McCants, a 2003 Pamplin alumna, member of the Pamplin Advisory Council, and principal at YHB, an accounting and consulting firm.
“I think that the work the DEIB office is doing for students, both current and future, for Pamplin and Virginia Tech, is so very important,” said McCants. “What a wonderful experience the PIP Academy is for prospective students. They get to learn about business, the different career options that come along with it, and discover what their passion may be.”
Students were also able to engage with Pamplin board members Eric Johnston and Errol Alexander from the Howard Feiertag Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management, Nick Tinch from the Blackwood Department of Real Estate, as well as representatives from corporate partner PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
The PIP Academy experience wasn’t all business for prospective students. Each day featured time for group recreational activities, including bowling, a morning on the Venture Out challenge course, or team-building exercises with PIP peer mentors.
“I really enjoyed meeting new people and learning more about the seven disciples offered at Pamplin,” said Aarya Jain. “I came into this program thinking I would pursue an engineering major, but after my sessions, I am now thinking of majoring in finance.”
Each student selected to participate in the academy had a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.5 out of 4.0 (or its equivalent grading scale) and submitted a statement of interest. Students had all program expenses of attendance covered, including room and board.
The PIP Academy directly aligns with President Tim Sands’s Beyond Boundaries vision, an initiative to dramatically improve the university’s access and affordability for students, which has been identified as a leading strategic priority for the university by Sands and the Board of Visitors.
According to Hall, the success of the second annual PIP Academy is something that can be built upon. “The future of the PIP Academy is bright. 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.”
“My experience has been fantastic at PIP Academy,” said Vivek Tewari. “I feel that I learned a lot about Virginia Tech and am now seriously considering Virginia Tech due to this experience.”
- Written by A’me Dalton