by Vicky Kaniaru
On the cover: Assistant Professor of Business Don Tatum (right) addresses local business leaders, who are (left to right), Rae Turner, president, Yonah Bowl and Skate; Margaret McLean, director of corporate communications, Babyland General; Sharon Lee, owner, America's Best Storage; and Dana Patterson, realtor, Century 21 Community Reality.
CLEVELAND, Ga. (TMCNews) — Local business leaders and Truett-McConnell faculty met March 21 to assess the college's business curriculum and discuss ways to better prepare students entering the business world after graduating.
"We need business industry input. That's the only way we'll know that what we're teaching will be useful to students as they leave the school," said Forney, chair of Truett-McConnell's business division and host of the business luncheon.
"Business is business," added Stacy Hall, Truett-McConnell's assistant professor of sports marketing and director of grant development. Students must understand the peculiarities of business and the needs of local markets, he said.
"I think Truett-McConnell is very important to this community from an economic standpoint, and I think this community is important to Truett-McConnell," said Don Allison, president of Mountain Valley Bank.
Regarding TMC's business degree requirements, Allison – a former adjunct professor and alumnus of TMC – said the school's curriculum provides "a good starting point for someone coming into the banking industry."
"I do applaud the Hospitality Management addition," Allison said, referring to a degree program set for launch in 2013. "I think for our area, that's huge."
Margaret McLean, director of corporate communications at Babyland General, said, "On the hospitality side, I'm looking at how [employees] handle customers." Customer service skills are essential in stores and businesses, she said.
Sharon Lee, owner of America's Best Storage, said, "The 'Leading through Change and Conflict' business course would help students communicate with people from different cultures and backgrounds."
"Because of technology, we are not having as much interaction with other people as we used to," said Lee, who is also business development and office manager of Precision Metal Buildings. Lee cited the technology trend as detrimental to young people in the business world. "They've become more technology savvy, and they depend on that. [But] when it comes to interaction and conflict, it revolves around being able to communicate effectively."
In addition to customer service, McLean emphasized the importance for employees to learn the dynamic between employees and supervisors. She said many employees "have no clue how they should handle themselves with their employers."
Because of Truett-McConnell's emphasis on a biblically-centered education, Dana Patterson, a realtor for Century 21 Community Reality, suggested that a business curriculum should emphasize the universally understood principle: you reap what you sow.
Regarding TMC's plan to create and offer internship opportunities for students and local businesses, Lee said, "It would be a great benefit to me as a small business to partner with Truett-McConnell and to get new information out that could help my business grow."
McLean suggested adding a course that highlights the profit and loss of a business. Students must understand the cash flow of the company they work for and "realize there is a cost in doing everything in business."
Rae Turner, president of Yonah Bowl and Skate, said she would rather have a person with experience than an employee with only a master's degree, but Hall interjected that many professional jobs require a master's degree.
McLean said the business curriculum must address White County's growth: "If you don't address your curriculum to address the growth in the area, we will not have the growth that we really are looking forward to because we have to stay competitive."
Regarding the potential success of any organization or business, Allison said that such must be "growing within this community, be a part of this community, and be involved in this community."
Truett-McConnell is growing at a record pace, said TMC's Vice President of Academic Services Brad Reynolds in a later interview.
Reynolds added that he is "grateful for the input from, and interaction with local business leaders and our faculty. While Truett-McConnell supports the community via numerous events, including the annual Treats-at-Truett and Easter Sunrise service, our students also mentor White County public school students, and, additionally, participate in an in-class reading program.
"Our desire at Truett-McConnell is to continue to be a positive influence both with and upon our community," Reynolds said. "Exploring the possibilities of internships for our students and local businesses is one more way mutual involvement can benefit our school and our neighboring community."
Forney plans such meetings twice a year, and said the meetings could impact Truett-McConnell's business courses.
"It's going to benefit business students because now we're going to have a better feel for what employers want them to have when they leave this institution," Forney said. "And we can tailor our program to what the employers are looking for or the skill set they're going to need."
Others attending the business luncheon included assistant professors of business Gary Fangmann and Don Tatum.
Vicky Kaniaru is senior staff writer at Truett-McConnell College.