This story is featured in the Fall 2017 edition of the HPU Magazine. Discover below how HPU’s educational model has a mission to help students begin their professional careers as soon as they arrive on campus.
Emily De Lena was a student when she stood in front of Netflix co-founder Marc Randolph, who is now HPU’s Entrepreneur in Residence. She had a clicker in her hand, a monitor behind her and a belief in the business she was building.
But what was the next step?
High Point University had helped her secure start-up funding through the annual Elevator Pitch and Business Plan Competitions. She met a local angel investor on campus who wanted to partner. Faculty and area business owners had mentored her, too.
Now Randolph, a Silicon Valley veteran, was inside Cottrell Hall’s Belk Entrepreneurship Center giving feedback to students like her.
“You need a prototype,” Randolph told De Lena after listening to her pitch.
And it struck her. She’d been wondering if Track Rabbit, her device that empowers runners to build speed through an LED light system, was ready for the prototype phase.
Now she knew. So she began building the prototype and eventually preparing the product for market.
De Lena graduated from HPU in May 2016 and went on to run her company full-time. A year later, she was installing her product inside the recreation area at HPU’s Slane Student Center. At the same time, a CNBC reporter was planning a trip to interview her about the business in light of the 2017 World Track and Field Championship.
“It’s full circle,” said De Lena, who’s from Pennsylvania and has built her company in Charlotte, North Carolina.
For De Lena and thousands more alumni, the HPU journey compressed time for them. They earned in four short years the type of wisdom and experience it would typically take decadesto achieve. Like face-to-face opportunities with the co-founder of Netflix.
“The first time I toured the HPU campus, I knew something great was going to happen if I became a student here,” De Lena says. “I knew it would change my life — and it did. It was fate.”
Her story is unique, but the methodical mentorship she experienced at HPU is the standard.
Like Ashlee Branch who landed a position hundreds competed for thanks to critical thinking skills she earned through her undergraduate research experiences.
Or Caroline Tucker who was recruited by online shopping giant Amazon through her LinkedIn profile, which she built with guidance from her career advisor.
Katherine Dunleavy studied abroad in Europe, which made her an attractive candidate for a public relations internship back in the states.
And Nick Stigler, who was just a rising sophomore when he landed a New Orleans Saints internship and helped treat some of the biggest names in the NFL. He graduated in May, was hired as an athletic trainer at Duke Orthopedics and works for one of th
e nation’s premier health systems.
They were each drawn to HPU’s mantra — Choose to be extraordinary! And they committed to a four-year career where they’d be treated as professionals, leaders, scholars and executives as soon as they arrived on campus.
Lessons in Leadership
The foundation begins early with what the business world calls “soft skills”— your ability to communicate with people different than yourself, present your ideas clearly, work in a team, be coachable, be adaptable, problem solve and persevere.
These skills are in strong demand in the marketplace. A longitudinal study conducted by the Leadership IQ Company asked employers for the top five reasons new hires don’t pan out. The overwhelming response? Coachability and emotional intelligence. Technical competence was at the bottom.
Enter the President’s Life Skills Seminar for all freshmen, led by Dr. Nido Qubein, who is HPU’s president, a serial entrepreneur and consultant to CEOs.
As someone who came from humble beginnings, Qubein also lives by and shares a principle found in the Gospel of Luke: “To whom much is given, much is required.” These words are painted above the lobby of the Hayworth Fine Arts Center, where freshmen attend his seminar in the auditorium.
That’s intentional — the seminar focuses not only on skills required by the business world, but the foundation for a values-based life, too.
“You must make choices about where you spend your time in life,” he tells freshmen. “I have lived by the rule of thirds. If you spend one-third of your life learning, one-third of your life earning and one-third of your life serving, you’ll live a life full of success and framed with significance.”
Connecting the Dots
Consider the most popular apps on peoples’ phones.
Skype. Amazon. Google Maps. Uber.
They’re linked by a common thread — building efficiency. If you can access information quicker or get somewhere faster, you can create room in your life for more meaningful experiences. HPU’s educational model has a mission to help students create capacity in their lives. They begin their professional careers as soon as they arrive on campus. Immediately, they’re treated as scholars, researchers and change agents, so they rise to the occasion.
And they’re encouraged to create, connect and collaborate across disciplines — just like they will in the real world.
“I want other students to know they are welcomed and encouraged to use our space, too,” says Kathy El
liott, director of the Belk Entrepreneurship Center, where students like De Lena have launched businesses. Being an entrepreneur is not just a professional choice; it’s a lifestyle. Whether students study dance, physical therapy or design furniture, entrepreneurs exist in every field.”
For Dunleavy, Tucker, Branch, Stigler and De Lena, the dots were connected for them through mentors in the Office of Career and Professional Development, the Office of Study Abroad, the Office of Undergraduate Research, Success Coaches and more.
Those offices taught the students, too, how to interpret the value of their experiences.
Dunleavy learned to articulate how the skills she gained studying in Italy are relevant to a New York City public relations firm with international clients.
Tucker presented the multiple internships she completed in a way that attracted the attention of a recruiter for a Fortune 500 company.
Branch applied her abilities to collect, analyze and present complex data through research for her psychology major to a job interview at an innovative organization.
Mentors who help along the way make it possible for students to graduate with more meaningful experiences that bring value to employers and graduate and professional schools. They make it possible for 95 percent of graduates — 13 points higher than the national average — to launch careers or enroll in graduate school within six months of graduation.
“HPU is a life accelerator,” says Qubein. “We believe in higher learning, but also higher living. And when you arm a student with the knowledge of their discipline and help them discover they can light the world on fire with their passion — get out of the way! They will blaze trails, help others and move the world forward in extraordinary ways.”
View this story and more in the Fall 2017 edition of the HPU Magazine: