What if we lived in a world where college students were so engaged in their programs and degrees that they encouraged their peers to become successful, professional individuals? Where the stereotype of 'lazy millennials' was completely debunked? Where students become leaders who take control of their education, enhancing their own campus using real-world experiences? Impossible, you say? False. This world does exist: it's the William Isaac and Michael Oxley Center for Business Leadership in the Farmer School of Business at Miami University.
The Center for Business Leadership (The Center) gives business students (fellows) hands-on leadership experience through a paid internship, financially supported by either The Center or a Sponsor Company. Fellows are called to work on purposeful projects, called initiatives, that are designed to improve The Center and the school as a whole. One of The Center's Co-Directors, Megan Gerhardt, tells us that these initiatives allow the fellows to be involved in meaningful work that relates directly to their business degrees while also contributing to their own professional development.
The Center recognized a need to showcase this work to both the Sponsors and future employers, but also wanted a tool that allowed students to reflect on their growth. This resulted in the Leadership Portfolio Initiative. Several platforms were researched and tested by the fellows to find the right fit. They needed a product that looked professional and created a consistent brand for all students, but was also quick and easy to design. The Center decided that Foliotek struck the appropriate balance. Two students were responsible for implementing the Foliotek Initiative: Mollie Etgen, who served as the team lead, and her co-leader, Emma Ciesick . Mollie, a senior majoring in Management Leadership, has secured a position as an Operations Manager for a Target Distribution Center. Emma is in her junior year, majoring in Marketing with a minor in Business Analytics. She has landed a summer internship with Fifth Third Bank’s Consumer Leadership Program.
"It's the first time I've been in a student organization and I'm actually able to lead something I'm genuinely passionate about" - Mollie
Fellows were instructed to complete a Foliotek ID page and include projects to showcase how they carried out their own initiatives in relation to The Center's values. To facilitate this process, Mollie and Emma created templates that guided fellows with reflective prompts and provided extensive support and resources to ensure student success. As fellows began working in Foliotek, they recognized the benefit of building their personal brand and were excited about the possibilities. Not only can their brand be used to demonstrate the initiatives of The Center, but also as a tool to market themselves to potential employers. Fellows especially liked how easy it was to share their brand with others via mobile access. In addition to the enthusiasm from fellows, the Foliotek initiative has also received positive feedback from the Dean, Dean's staff, and advisory boards.
"The feedback we got from them [the advisory board] was probably the most rewarding part of this. They were really excited about it; they said "Why don't more people have this? It's such a great and modern way to showcase yourself that's better than a resume!" - Emma
With a successful implementation of Foliotek, the Center now has a way to hold fellows accountable for their initiatives. Furthermore, since The Center has to recruit companies to sponsor the fellows, they can also use Foliotek as a powerful marketing tool. Instead of trying to relay information second-hand, recruiters are able to bring these stories directly to companies, donors, and alumni, showcasing exactly what the fellows are accomplishing.
What's next for the Foliotek initiative? This spring, new fellows will be coming into The Center and will be introduced to Foliotek. Mollie and Emma are already planning a few changes to make the initiative even more successful, including streamlining their training resources. Moving forward, Emma will take over the Foliotek Initiative when Mollie graduates. Reflecting on the experience, Mollie shares, " ... it's really awesome that I can help others showcase their leadership development because that's such a crucial part of who you are."