Broadening students’ cultural horizons is a goal of the Haworth College of Business’s TechNext program, which hosted trips to San Francisco and San Diego in fall 2019. Students are selected to be a part of TechNext from programs across the University based on high academic achievement and interest in entrepreneurship and technology applications. Each year, the TechNext team embarks on travel experiences designed to immerse students into a new culture and professional environment.
“TechNext is an experiential learning opportunity for innovative students who are looking to gain an education outside of the typical classroom setting,” says Maisie Blaukamp, a TechNext student coordinator. “Each semester prior to a trip, we reach out to alumni in the region to plan visits to companies and a WMU alumni networking event. The goal of TechNext is to ‘open apertures and change trajectories.’ This means that TechNext seeks to open students to opportunities they never thought were possible, and even change the course of their lives. During TechNext trips, we learn a tremendous amount covering many different topics, which opens our minds to endless possibilities of what we can do and who we can be.”
This life-changing experience provides opportunities to students that enable them to expand their cultural horizons, professional networks and ambitions.
“The TechNext trip is important because it allows students to broaden their mindset. You can only learn so much in class; it’s when you’re able to go out and actually apply what you’re learning to the world around you that you’re able to learn the most,” says Maddy Zednick, a TechNext student coordinator.
WEST COAST TAKEOVER
Fall 2019 marks the first semester that TechNext has been able to make two trips to the West Coast. The team traveled to San Diego in mid-October and to San Francisco in early November. Students were able to meet with 24 companies, ranging from household names like Netflix to new startups like Fiddler. Additionally, the students were able to meet and make lasting connections with more than 50 alumni.
While the team puts in a lot of work to make these trips happen, they certainly have some help from impactful educators and alumni.
“The efforts put forth by Western’s administration to make these trips possible is incomparable,” Zednick says. “We have traveled with Haworth College of Business Dean Satish Deshpande, Vice President for University Advancement Kristen DeVries, Department of Management Chair and Professor Bob Landeros, Management Instructor Barcley Johnson and other influential administrators from WMU. Being able to learn from and travel with these leaders is not always an opportunity at other universities.”
A few of TechNext’s company visits included Miles, Corient Capital Partners and Shipt. Miles is an app that offers rewards based on any mile traveled, across every mode of transportation. The students enjoyed learning how the data from this app is aggregated and then used to help incentivize commuters to pursue more sustainable forms of travel.
At Corient Capital Partners, a wealth management firm, students learned how a company that manages billions of dollars prioritizes trust and ethics every day. Managing partner of the company, WMU alumnus Chris Copps, B.B.A.’82, was also able to give students investment advice as they start off their careers.
Students also met with members of the marketing team at Shipt, a company that connects community members to local grocery stores by doing the shopping for them. The marketing team spoke about their creative process and how some of the ideas for Shipt commercials are conceived. The opportunity for students to learn from companies like these and see their inner workings provides an eye-opening experience.
“The companies and alumni we visit are so generous in letting the students come and learn,” says Johnson, who is the also the TechNext faculty advisor. “We provide them an avenue to share their expertise with the next generation. The satisfaction from that, and the energy the students inject into their work environments is what keeps companies opening their doors.”
The results of being involved in TechNext have been very positive for its members. Many students have obtained employment opportunities out west for incredible companies. But that is not the only goal of the TechNext team. “The employment opportunities are always amazing for students, but I think the team has value beyond that,” Blaukamp reflects. “Being a part of this program instills a confidence and hunger to learn. These lessons will make us successful wherever we land.”