BEEP program returns to mentor students

The National Urban League’s oldest running program returned to Dillard University Nov.11 through 12. The Black Executive Exchange Program serves as a forum for students to meet and learn from successful black professionals.

The program began with a continental breakfast for the BEEPers in Career Services. The BEEPers then went to various classrooms to discuss what the corporate American culture is like. Topics such as business etiquette and business attire were discussed, but issues such as attaining good skill sets were stressed. Skills sets mean more than great grades and a nice resume: it includes interpersonal skills, being effective and efficient and having a concept of teamwork.

"[Corporate America] is looking for young people with good and effective communication skills," Lewis Booker, director of Safety, Health and Environment for Unilever, said. "It is absolutely paramount that if you have information, you have the ability to share it."

"They are also looking for people with excellent interpersonal skills and who think outside the box," Booker added.

Dillard students appreciated the chance to meet and interact with the successful professionals; one of the caveats of the program is the chance for students to make connections and networks with the BEEPers.

"I feel like it’s a good opportunity for students to network and find out about different industries," said Alice Glynn, a senior english major.

The BEEPers agreed on the necessity of the program in the HBCU community.

"The program is designed to make [students] aware of the skill sets you need to be successful. It gives you a look in or a view in what is going on in the mainstream, because the competition is not only white students, but black students at other HBCU’s," Booker said.

During the networking luncheon students got practical lessons in the power of networking which some of the BEEPers felt is still a skill that is lacking among black college students.

"I think students are learning [the importance of networking]," said Booker. "Students in general tend to look at networking through a very narrow scope. One of the challenges when you are a young person is to get out there. The reality of networking is getting out of your comfort zone and forming connections, but students are getting better with it."

Following the luncheon, students were invited to participate in a panel discussion of topics that affect African-Americans in corporate America. Students? preparation upon graduation was the most stressed issue. That begins here at Dillard. By incorporating trust, integrity, credibility and problem solving into a daily routine, students will be well prepared for their transition into corporate America.

"Whatever you’re doing now, it’s instilled in you," said Betty Cain, supporter of the program.
The program calls for members of the community to the root of professional development, college. BEEPers travel from across the country, but even alumni stop in to help participate.

Will Matthews, a 2004 graduate, returned to lend a helping hand.

"This is my third time being a part of BEEP, and I returned because I feel that it gives students networking opportunities and experiences from black executives on what it’s like to be in corporate America," Matthews said.

The students who were chosen to participate were found through different avenues. Some signed up in the office of career services for the program, others volunteered to help escort and serve as mentees for the BEEPers. The program tried to reach all Dillard students by having BEEPers go to various classrooms during the day and speak on the corporate American culture.

"The things they tell you is information that you can take with you and use in any field," Matthews said. "They’re not just here for the business management majors. That is one of the biggest misconceptions."

Members of the community also acknowledged the importance of a program like BEEP at HBCUs. Cain, mother of Dewain Lee, associate dean of Career Services, felt that students should try to capitalize on all opportunities like BEEP that are offered to them while they are still in school.

"[Students] should take advantage of this opportunity that will help them in their future careers," Cain said. "Once you get out there it’s cold. You can’t tell a company ‘I didn’t know this,’ this program helps you prepare for the next step."

The other BEEPers recognized the love that can be felt from the Dillard community. Like other HBCUs, there is a nurturing environment at Dillard that is not in corporate America.

Dillard contacts the National Urban League with the dates of when the program will be held. Schools across the country have their programs at different times, and for a little while, Dillard was having the program every semester, but now it will be held annually in the fall.

Each BEEPer has the opportunity to choose where they want to go, and some of the BEEPers are returning guests who were impressed with the students and faculty’s commitment to education and producing leaders of tomorrow.

"Last year when I came I was impressed with the students," Vicki Marks said senior marketing manager for UPS Capital, said. "It was a very positive experience. Dillard has a real commitment to helping students grow as much as they can.

"Marks felt that Dillard stood out because of the warm reception she received while she was here last year.

"Not all schools have been as receptive to the BEEPers," Marks said. "You could see the students appreciated us being here."

BEEPer Mark Pringle agreed with Marks.

"It’s nice to come back to a place that does it right," Martin Pringle, Human Resources Business Partner for Ashland, Inc, said. "Students are thinking about more than the here and now, they are committed college students concerned with what they are going to do after their college years."

The program culminated on Friday with another continental breakfast for the BEEPers, class talks and a de-briefing. But before they left they wanted to make sure that all of this was done to benefit the students.

"Bottom line we want to make sure we give people all the information we can to help to achieve success in their careers," Denise Thomas, International Business Manager of AT&T Solutions, said.
Information about next year’s program is available in the office of Career and Educational Enhancement Options.