This story is featured in the Spring 2018 edition of the HPU Magazine. Discover below how students in HPU’s Phillips School of Business find a network of support across campus.
On the corner of April Cosner’s desk, for every business student to see, sits a paperweight with something from Dr. Seuss that has become her mantra.
“Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting so … get on your way.”
Business students do. Cosner, an HPU career advisor, helps at least 800 students a year with resumes, cover letters and interview skills as she guides them toward finding a passion, an internship or a job after graduation.
They come to Cosner’s first-floor office in Cottrell Hall after first seeing Pam Francisco on the second floor. Francisco is a former high school principal who has served as a success coach the past four years for almost every first-year business student.
Her students see her as a surrogate mom; Francisco calls them “my kids.”
She has a progress report on each one of them in a three-ring binder two inches thick. They’ll come by often, sit across from her at her tall table in Cottrell, and hear always what they need to do.
“Oh, you’re smart enough to do this,” Francisco, a mother of two grown daughters, will tell them about a course. “You just need to work a little harder.”
So begins the journey of every business student at HPU. What they all find is a web of support, a network of staff and faculty who challenge them to excel, take risks, think like an entrepreneur and know that the art of selling is vital to everything they do.
Dreams Take Root
At HPU, business majors make up about 25 percent of the university’s entire population. That’s more than 1,200 students who take one or more majors — accounting, business, entrepreneurship, international business, marketing and sales.
Six months after graduation, 96 percent of all HPU students either have a job or have gone on to graduate school.
That number is reflective of the entire campus population, and HPU business students mention that number with pride. Then, they’ll start what they’re doing — beginning a business, scoring another internship, entering a national sales competition and working hard so they can land a potential job.
Or they’ll mention their nerves, about how they practiced their presentation for days, stepped before four judges, swallowed their fear and pitched a potential business. They say it was the scariest three minutes of their lives.
But they do it — and they learn. They feel a part of something special.
Alumni are no different. Take Jeremy Hiatt.
He’s an accountant with Smith-Leonard, one of North Carolina’s largest accounting firms, and he comes to campus every year to recruit interns and talk to them about their future and their dreams.
He knows just how they feel.
Hiatt graduated from HPU in May 2010 with an accounting degree, and that summer, he interned with Smith-Leonard. Now, after two promotions, he works for Smith-Leonard as an Assurance Manager in High Point.
When he comes to campus, Hiatt catches up with George Noxon and Scott Davis, two former professors, and he always remembers what he learned. He even can quote something Davis said in class: “Accounting is the language of business.”
But really, it’s more than that.
“It’s that sense of camaraderie I remember, that ‘Hey, we’re here for you, and we want you to set the world on fire,’” Hiatt says today. “And I believed them. That encouragement and support from my professors and the university overall instilled the value that anything is achievable.”
An Environment of Exploration
On a Thursday night, minutes before HPU’s annual Elevator Pitch Competition, professor Troy Knauss walks into a knot of well-dressed competitors behind a glass-walled office inside Cottrell.
“This is your Super Bowl, your chance onstage,” he says to them, smiling. “Make it happen.”
Knauss teaches courses on business modeling, creativity and entrepreneurship, and he knows the terrain well. He’s an angel investor and a venture capitalist. He also has invested in 48 other companies, and he has started and sold five companies.
Meanwhile, he was the fifth generation of a family business. His great-great-grandfather started a food company in 1902 in Pennsylvania. After 15 years in the family business, Knauss sold it in 2005.
He brings all that experience into the classroom because he wants his students to gain the skills to succeed in an economy where competition grows with each passing year.
“Entrepreneurs fail because they don’t have the right skill set, and that is the skill set I want them to learn here,” Knauss says. “They get experience in a safe environment. You don’t have that opportunity at large universities. You get lost. Here, you can see anyone any day.”
What Support Can Do
Freshman Matt DeRienzo saw Cosner, his career advisor, every week for four straight months.
DeRienzo grew up in Southbury, Connecticut, loving sports, playing football and following the Oakland Raiders. Last year, when he came to HPU to study business administration, he found an internship with the Atlantic Coast Conference that involved working with football game-day operations.
He wanted it. But he needed help. He came to Cosner.
She helped him with his resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile and worked with him on countless mock interviews, saying, “That’s good, but there is a better way to say it.”
In June, DeRienzo found out he got the internship. The first person he told was Cosner.
“It’s the best thing to have someone in your corner,” DeRienzo says. “You can’t let them down because then you’re letting yourself down.”
For Cosner, that’s what she tries to do — empower students.
“I enjoy immensely helping students find their passion and their purpose,” she says. “That is what I’m teaching them. They have so much potential. They just don’t know how to get there.”
Cosner receives her share of thank yous. So does Francisco, the success coach.
Like this text, full of exclamation marks.
“I just wanted to let you know that I’ve accepted a job offer from the firm I worked for this summer in Boston! Wouldn’t have happened without the help and advice you gave me over the last few years. Thank you so much for everything you’ve done for me! I appreciate you for sticking with me after my freshman year. It means a lot.”
Ask Francisco about all that, and she responds in a voice barely above a whisper.
“That is why I do what I do.”
View this story and more in the Spring 2018 edition of the HPU Magazine: