Business leaders, students connect at meeting
By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
Grand Canyon University students mingling with industry leaders from across the Valley, including the most famous one of all, Jerry Colangelo.
Those same industry leaders getting to know business majors who could be potential hires for their firms.
Hard to tell who got more out of it. Call it a tie. No, wait – call it a big victory.
For 90 minutes Friday morning at the Canyon 49 Grill, a Colangelo College of Business advisory board meeting took a new twist: Rather than a set agenda, rather than the students just witnessing what goes on, it was all talk. But that was the magic.
In the corner in front of the television was Rick Dircks, Executive Vice President of Dircks Moving and Logistics and a member of the Fiesta Bowl board, having a long conversation with several students.
Over there was Paul Baldwin, Corporate Risk and Broking Leader for Willis Towers Watson, holding court with a handful of interested proteges.
And then there was Jonathan Keyser, a new member of the advisory board and founder of a commercial real estate firm, Keyser, that is based on the same Conscious Capitalism principles taught by CCOB. It was his first advisory board meeting.
“Very impressive,” Keyser said of the students. “I’ve had some good interactions. Very assertive, confident, willing to ask questions.
“It’s exciting to be that next generation of leader and feel like we have a community of support. Sometimes it’s lonely doing business selflessly. There aren’t a lot of other people who get it or do it the same way.”
More than a decade ago, Keyser became disillusioned by what he called the “ruthless and predatory” corporate practices in real estate and felt disappointed that he had fallen into the same trap.
“I was materially unhappy and wished there was a better way,” he said. “I stumbled across a better way, reinvented myself around it and have now built a firm focused on training up that next generation of leader, only hiring people who care about helping others.”
He wrote down all the things he wished he could change about the industry and made those the 15 principles of his new firm. His company’s slogan: Success through helping others succeed.
“Our mission is to change the commercial real estate brokerage industry and the broader business industry through selfless service,” he said.
That’s exactly what CCOB students are hearing – both in the classroom and at opportunities of this nature.
“I feel like GCU does a really great job of setting us up for success when we graduate,” said senior Dominique Broom. “These meetings are another tool for us.”
Broom was a marketing major before attending CCOB meetings made her realize that hospitality better suited her. Now she’s one of the GCU student managers of the new Mission Possible Café in downtown Phoenix.
Asked what she thinks she might do after she graduates in April, Broom said, “I thought I had an idea, but it keeps changing because GCU keeps helping me with opportunities. I thought I wanted to go into food and beverage within hotels, but now that I’ve been doing food and beverage and I’m managing over at Mission Possible, I think I want to go more into the tourism side. So maybe work for a department of tourism or work for a sales team at a hotel. I have a knack for all the cool places to go and the cool people to know.”
Baldwin was one of the cool people to know at Friday’s event. His conversation with students lasted most of the hour and a half, and it was obvious from the give-and-take that they all were getting a lot out of it – Baldwin included.
“The remarkable thing to me,” he said, “is the intelligence and the dynamic assertiveness of that combined group in there. They’re kids who know where they are and where they’re going.
“They realize it’s not going to be easy, so they’re looking to other people. There’s that admiration and respect for people who have been in the trenches.”
Baldwin is looking for people like this. He doesn’t mince words.
“Unfortunately, our society is starting to evolve beyond entitlement, and now it’s just a blurred expectation that things are going to be easy and automatic,” he said. “I don’t get that sense at all here.
“These kids are talking about how hard they’re applying to the classroom what they want to do when they get out, the things they want to leverage, how they want to network. To me, that’s powerful, and it sort of recalibrates your thinking that there are pockets of really good people out there.”
Dircks was another executive who benefited from the discussion. He seemed as interested in getting the students’ perspective as he was in offering his own.
“I get lots of great ideas just talking to them,” he said. “They have all the energy in the world. I also love to mentor. As I tell my kids all the time, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. The college obviously is practicing that by having events like this. I applaud them, and I just love the fact that they want to get known out there and they want the jobs and they want to do better. I love being part of that.”
Dircks, like Baldwin, didn’t mince words. He said he wishes he had networked like this when he was in college.
“There are thousands of people who want to do those few jobs in sports,” he said. “This puts you ahead of the pack immediately.”
It was the first time at a CCOB advisory board meeting for Jordan Vicente, a junior majoring in sports management, and Elijah Kattke, a sophomore marketing major. After talking with Dircks and other attendees, they saw the value in the opportunity.
“Being here will definitely help us network and meet people and potentially get internships,” Vicente said.
Kattke said the best thing about it was “just hearing a little bit about their background, their influences in their lives and how they’ve gotten where they’ve gotten today.”
Two of the most successful CCOB entrepreneurial students, Levi Conlow and Nathan Cooper of Lectric Longboards, even got to talk with Marc Braden, Managing Partner of the enormously successful New York Life office in Scottsdale. Braden had bought one of their motorized skateboards and had some important feedback for them.
Dr. Randy Gibb, the CCOB Dean, said the mingling session was a nice change-of-pace for the advisory board. He invited 20 advisory board members and 30 students, making the ratio just right. The setting – the patio area in the northwest corner of the Canyon 49 – was just right, too.
“It’s learning about networking, putting yourself out there, talking to a business community leader,” Gibb said. “We had CEOs, CFOs, a head of HR. The next step might be to talk with someone who’s in your career field of interest and maybe follow up with them and interview for an internship.”
That’s valuable for the students. But it works for those industry leaders to get a first-hand look at possible hires.
“This was time well-spent,” Baldwin said.
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].