Leading with Life Skills

This story is featured in the Fall 2018 edition of the HPU Magazine. Below, learn how HPU’s prepares students with the life skills necessary to stand out and excel in today’s workforce.


If you connect dots on a map to the places where High Point University students launch careers and land internships, you’ll see a landscape of lines that shoot across the country.

They begin at HPU and spread to major metropolitan areas, corporations and nonprofit organizations.

In California, you’ll find members of the HPU family working at Tesla, Facebook and Apple.

They’re at the Boston Red Sox, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Wayfair in Massachusetts. And you’ll find them at Good Morning America, the TODAY Show, People Magazine, Revlon, Google and Calvin Klein in New York City, too.

Graduates are pursuing their dreams of becoming doctors and lawyers at the University of South Carolina, the University of Kansas, West Virginia University and East Tennessee State University.

And it’s hard to keep count of the HPU graduates working at Fort Myers, Florida-based Gartner, one of the world’s leading research and advisory firms.

Ryan Torchia knows why.

Coachability. Initiative. Drive.

As a regional vice president at Gartner, Torchia hires, develops and promotes the kind of people who can grow with the company’s fast-paced culture.

That often brings him to High Point University.


Employers Flock to Campus

Gartner, based in Fort Myers, Florida, has hired more than two dozen HPU students as interns and HPU graduates as full-time employees.

Torchia has recruited a long list of HPU graduates to Gartner’s sales team — Nick O’Brien, Kaelin Fuller, Vincent Perez, Alex Gross, Cherryl Ouayoro, Steven Dick, Rosana Filingeri, Kate Pappas, Leah Larson, Michael Keener, Lexie Williams and Ryan Fuller, to name a few.

There’s also more than a dozen undergraduates interning at Gartner each summer.

Torchia built his relationship with HPU through Larry Quinn, chair of sales and marketing, and Randy Moser, assistant professor of marketing. Both have decades of sales experience. Some of Gartner’s senior leaders are Quinn’s colleagues from the years he worked in sales at Xerox.

“I’ve always had enormous respect for the character of the people and the quality of the career opportunities Gartner provides,” says Quinn. “They were one of the first employers I invited to our campus, and they love High Point.”

Torchia’s first HPU recruit was O’Brien, ’16. They met at a national sales competition near Atlanta, Georgia, where Quinn’s students competed.

“Around that time, our company began aligning ourselves with the best campuses,” says Torchia. “My relationship with HPU has since expanded, and there is something to be said for how special HPU graduates are.”

Now, Torchia visits HPU throughout the year to shake hands with students at career fairs held on campus, ask them job interview-style questions on the spot, deliver classroom presentations and answer questions
about what it’s like to work at Gartner.

And every spring, he extends offers to HPU candidates like Kate Pappas, who accepted an account manager position before she graduated in May.

“I was impressed with their immense growth, strong culture and the possibilities at Gartner,” says Pappas, from Dracut, Massachusetts. “If it wasn’t for the business school seminar that brought Ryan to campus, I may not be employed at my dream company.”


Culture and Coachability

Recruiters who come to campus often see how HPU students are prepared differently.

For Torchia, it starts with something he calls “coachability.”

“HPU graduates have gone through a strong sales program and have great initiative, but they also have the maturity to know they don’t know everything on day one,” Torchia says. “They’re coachable and willing to grow, which is why they’ve been phenomenal in our leadership program.”

His perspective reflects what other employers around the world are saying. A longitudinal study conducted by the Leadership IQ Company asked employers over three years for the top reasons that new hires fail. Their No. 1 response? Coachability.












That’s why HPU places a strong emphasis on life skills. In a world where technology changes daily, technical skills won’t take students through a lifelong career. But life skills — the ability to collaborate, communicate, solve problems and create relevant value in a complex situation — are the skills that serve graduates well for the rest of their lives.

Torchia has seen that come to life when HPU graduates make a positive impression on C-suite level executives as soon as they arrive.

“I think it’s because of how they interacted with HPU leadership and absorbed the motivated nature you find on campus,” says Torchia. “They were pushed to accomplish big things at HPU, and they know that their contributions will pay off. They’re confident, driven and prepared for the hard work.”

He also sees parallels between the culture at Gartner and HPU.

“It starts with leadership,” says Torchia. “I’ve seen what Nido Qubein (university president) has done to transform HPU, even during a recession. Our leadership is similar with Gartner experiencing 33 straight quarters of growth. We’ve all benefited from leaders with a vision and a team passionate about their work.”


Career Development Beginning Day One

These success stories represent HPU’s focus on career development, which begins as soon as students enroll. The collective efforts of faculty and staff to prepare students for the world as it’s going to be are evident in outcomes data, too — 96 percent of graduates are employed or in graduate school within six months of completing their education.

HPU’s Career and Professional Development team members are the nexus of those efforts. They guide students through the process, including the hard work and the individual steps it takes to get there.

Dr. Bill Gentry, director of Career and Professional Development, has a team of advisors, student career peer ambassadors and internship specialists to assist students.

“It’s never too early to begin career and leadership development,” says Gentry.

Gentry is the author of “Be the Boss Everyone Wants to Work For: A Guide for New Leaders.” He previously worked at the Center for Creative Leadership, where he used trend research, data-driven analytics and workshops to develop first-time managers, so he knows a thing or two about professional development.

His team works with academic departments to establish a wide offering of Focus Fairs — niche career fairs for specific majors that bring employers directly to campus. From business, to communication, to sport management, there’s often a specialized career fair for every academic school or department on campus. The Sales Career Fair is one event where Torchia recruits for Gartner.

In a student’s earliest stages, Gentry’s team focuses on the foundation — resumes, LinkedIn profiles, career exploration and job shadowing opportunities.

 Once they’ve helped students build their four-year career plan, students begin to develop portfolios through their coursework and search for hands-on experience. 

That leads them to Faith Cochran, assistant director of internships, who walks them through the steps of landing their first internship, then often a second and third. Those experiences prepare students to go after their first big job offer.

“It is truly a process,” says Cochran, who works with students in any major and any academic year. “I start with 50-minute appointments with each student and begin building trust with them. We have an open conversation about what they see themselves doing after graduation, their goals and what they’re passionate about. Then we keep moving forward with their game plan.”


Taking HPU to the World

Cochran has a special tip she shares with students. If there’s a high-level internship they want to secure, she encourages students to contact the recruiter long before they’re ready to apply.

“Ask that recruiter what they want in an ideal candidate,” says Cochran. “They’ll tell you if they’re looking for someone with a specific GPA, major, minor or skill set. Getting this information early in your academic career lets you build a path to becoming a strong candidate. If you show initiative and build rapport with that recruiter now, you’ll increase your chances of success when it’s time to apply.”

This level of guidance and advice has placed HPU students and alumni in competitive opportunities all across the country. 

Students like Cassandra Diaz, ’19, who competed against thousands for her NBA internship in New York.

“Good Morning America” selected junior Ava Anderson as the summer fashion intern in New York City. Tyler Massaroni, ’14, is a financial analyst at nearby Calvin Klein.

At Tesla in Fremont, California, junior Chris Schorn spent his summer as an intern on the Digital Products Team. Drive down to Cupertino and you’ll find Alex Palmer, ’12, working as a software engineer at Apple Computer, or head to Menlo Park where James Jadotte, ’12, works on Facebook’s human resources team.

Claudia Holland, ’18, commenced the accounting career she once dreamed about at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Charlotte, North Carolina. Meanwhile, Maggie Seward, ’16, is in her second year as a tax associate at PwC in Boston, Massachusetts.

Claudia Holland, ’18, commenced the accounting career she once dreamed about at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Meanwhile, Maggie Seward, ’16, is in her second year as a tax associate at PwC in Boston, Massachusetts.

Gina Botsko, ’18, is fulfilling her dream of becoming a medical doctor at East Tennessee State University’s Quillen College of Medicine. Nick Muniz, ’18, is in law school at the University of South Carolina.

Their post-graduation plans have taken them to many different corners of the country.

Their journey to develop as professionals who render value in the world, though, began at HPU.

“Every day, we ask employers what they need, and we translate that into programs and practices students can use to set themselves apart,” says Gentry. “That’s the mission of our office.”









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