By Ashlee Larrison
GCU News Bureau
Grand Canyon University’s Honors College focuses on preparing students for a number of possible scenarios in their career, right down to which fork to use at a formal dinner. Tuesday, the top students got to use those forks when they were recognized at exactly that type of gathering.
They were trained via the PAC Professional Development Program, a 10-week tutorial that includes intensive, interactive workshops with corporate leaders and industry professionals, small-group mentorship sessions, mock networking and interviewing, and other beneficial opportunities. (PAC stands for Professional, Academic and Career, but the program is commonly known as PAC.)
But it's also a friendly competition, primarily for freshmen. This year, it attracted about 100 participants, triple the number from a year ago. Students earn points for attending PAC events, and the top 25 were rewarded with Tuesday's etiquette dinner.
Honors College Associate Dean Breanna Naegeli said that the program is less about competition and more about students developing as well-rounded professionals and confident leaders within their communities.
"The whole program in itself is not designed to be rigorously competitive. We want students to be supportive, lift each other up and work together to build these professional skills as a group," Naegeli said. "These points are simply a way to encourage students to step outside of their comfort zone and really maximize all their opportunities."
Program Manager Cathleen Daly, who works closely with the PAC students, said that even though there is an incentive to be within the top 25, students don’t let that get the best of them.
“I think there’s a lot of camaraderie amongst the group,” Daly said. “In that same sense, it makes them competitive in the most empowering and encouraging way.”
It also works as a way to help Honors students get to know their peers.
At the dinner, which took place at Canyon 49 Grill, students were greeted to a lesson of formal dining etiquette by GCU Hotel Assistant Manager Mark Petroff, then told who won the top 10 spots. The top three were given awards, and the other seven received plaques to commemorate their achievement.
This year’s top three not only maxed out the number of points by going to every PAC event, not just the ones that matched their major. They also are active in the GCU community and have been involved in numerous side projects.
They were so impressive, the only way Naegeli and her team could separate them was through individual interviews. The winner, in the end, was finance major Noah Viso, followed by Chloe Campbell (communications) in second and Ashley Hayes (education) in third. All three are freshmen.
Despite her receiving an award for making into the top three, Hayes said that was minor compared to the experience.
“For me, I think being in the top three was mostly like getting the most out of it,” Hayes said. “When Dennis (Williams, another program manager) said, ‘You get out of PAC what you put in,’ I really took that to heart and decided to give it my best effort. It’s not really about the award but the skills I learned along the way that will help me in my future.”
Campbell said the program allowed her to practice her communication skills with industry professionals and put her on the right track for her future career.
“One cool thing about the program is that I feel so confident in all the skills, whether that is how to effectively interview or how to properly network or whether that’s my elevator pitch. Now I have all those skills under my belt that I can really apply,” Campbell said. “I’m so glad I did it as a freshman because I started off so strong.”
Viso also left with something much greater than an award. He credited the PAC program with pushing him out of his comfort zone and expanding his skills.
“It’s good to know that what I put in was enough to grow myself and to prove that I’ve grown as a person,” he said.
Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected]
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