Lauren Black, class of 2019 accounting and information systems double major, writes about the Smith Leadership Institute (SLI), held on Aug. 26, 2017, at the Xfinity Center. SLI is the kick-off event for the Smith Start program for incoming freshmen at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business. Photos are courtesy of Adedeji Adebayo, class of 2018 business information systems major.
Starting off freshman year of college is easily one of the most nerve-racking experiences of one’s life. You could feel the eager and anxious energy as the Class of 2021 made their way to the steps outside the Xfinity Center. This nervous energy turned into laughs and smiles as they gathered around their classmates for their class picture, a tradition for all incoming classes. The fall semester kicked off on a beautiful Saturday morning, where the new freshmen were officially welcomed into the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business family during this year’s Smith Leadership Institute.
Smith undergraduate student mentors and EY professionals also exuded the strong and positive energy, as they started their morning with a good breakfast, great music and even better dancing. The morning was spent surrounded by peers, EY professionals and Smith faculty as students learned more about how important developing a personal brand is to stay competitive in the workforce.
The message was clear: students must develop and manage their personal brand during their time at Smith. Rather than just explain this with a plain presentation, Smith faculty organized a well-rounded event that made even the freshmen, who had to wake up at 8:30 a.m. on a Saturday, have fun.
The freshmen separated into 13 cohorts and met the rest of the Class of 2021 while they got a glimpse as to what the Robert H. Smith School of Business had in store for them.
Victor Mullins, Associate Dean of the Smith Undergraduate Program, welcomed these students into the Smith community and encouraged them to get excited for the amazing year to come. “You are now part of our family,” said Dean Mullins. “It is important to start getting down to business… immediately.”
The energy stayed especially high as a Smith favorite took the stage, Kaplan Mobray, a leadership coach and motivational speaker. He led the rest of the event by focusing on learning about yourself and your brand. “Protect, grow, manage, study, and live your personal brand,” Kaplan stated. “There is no excuse for not owning your brand.” He introduced thought-provoking questions such as “what do you want to be known for?” and “why do you do what you do?” to get the freshmen thinking about their personal brand. The entire event was interactive with the audience, as freshmen from every cohort were called on to answer questions, and some even walked away with personal prizes. If someone in the audience was not called on, they most likely caught one of the pieces of candy Kaplan was throwing around during the event as well. Kaplan’s famous “10 Ks of Personal Branding” were introduced, including tips such as “know what you want to be known for,” “know your expectations, not your limitations,” and “know how to accept failure.” “Silence is not an option,” explained Kaplan as he urged the Class of 2021 to “own the value of your seat.” His goal was to get the freshmen to realize all the opportunities they are given and know that there are thousands of others who would gladly take their places. The Smith freshmen started thinking about their “Elevator Pitch,” discovering who they are, what they do, and how they add value, giving them an advantage going into their first year.
To relate more to a generation with great technological dependency, Kaplan stressed the importance of having a professional online persona. “Your posts are your brand,” Kaplan explained as he told students to make sure their online presence was reflective of their actual presence. In a society that is as tech savvy as ours, companies are ensuring they are hiring the right individuals by considering their online personality.
The students kept engaged and excited during the event and appreciated the warm and energetic welcome to the Smith culture. Jessica Cronin, a freshman Smith student, felt as if she learned a lot about Smith and about herself during the event. “My biggest takeaway is that it’s necessary to make yourself known for something so you are memorable to people,” Jessica stated. “I loved Smith before but I am excited to experience it all after today.”
Anthony Calderazzi, EY partner, and Maryland alumnus, also welcomed the incoming class and stressed the importance of developing a unique brand to be successful in the business world. “All we are is our brand,” explained Anthony. “We only have our people and our brand.” Events like the Smith Leadership Institute have attracted companies such as EY, as they have been sponsoring the event for about 10 years and have been active partners with the Smith School for over 30 years. The global professional services firm on average hires around 80 Smith School graduates and believes Terps contribute greatly to building a better working world. It is clear that Smith students are successful in acquiring jobs at companies such as EY because their brand is developed as early as their freshman year.
To learn more about the Robert H. Smith School of Business Undergraduate Program, visit: www.rhsmith.umd.edu/undergrad.