Now in its fourth year, the University of Illinois College of Business is one of twelve esteemed consortium universities chosen to participate in the Leadership and Development (LEAD) program. In July 2007, 30 rising seniors graduated from the three-week intensive program. LEAD is an opportunity to attract African Americans, Hispanic and Native Americans who enroll as undergraduates in the College of Business. There are currently 27 LEAD students enrolled as freshmen, sophomores, and juniors at Illinois.
Our current LEAD students have gained recognition for the College of Business and the University of Illinois, including those who beat Indiana University in MTV’s Quad Squad competition in fall 2006, and most recently, those who organized the first undergraduate chapter of the National Black MBA Association.
Former LEAD student Rachel Rodgers, entering her junior year in fall 2007 and majoring in accountancy with a minor in The Hoeft Technology and Management Program, has made a name for herself, and the College, by organizing the first undergraduate chapter of the National Black MBA Association. This fall, Rodgers will attend the annual National Black MBA Association conference in Orlando, and will consult with other collegiate chapter presidents throughout the year on either starting or strengthening their new undergraduate chapters.
Victor Mullins, associate dean, Office of Undergraduate Affairs, said the goal of the program is to introduce more underrepresented students to core business practices and to help open doors for academically gifted students, such as Rachel Rodgers and others.
Since its inception in 1980, LEAD has been an effective mechanism for channeling top minority youth into business careers. LEAD provides its students with a broad perspective of the business world, helping them select the best career direction. Support continues through college and beyond by opening doors to mentoring programs, internships, and jobs. It also helps companies identify outstanding internship and employment prospects. LEAD students have an instant network of 9,000 fellow LEAD alumni.
“Another plus is that the students gain access to and can connect with college administrators and deans, which includes anyone in the LEAD network,” said Jewell White, assistant dean, undergraduate business admissions. “We recently counseled a LEAD student from Harvard who received a 'B' and was concerned about how this might affect her future.”
As part of their course work, LEAD students compete in a team marketing project, presenting before a panel of judges that includes faculty, corporate representatives, and recruiters.
“Our goal in the competition is to take the academic components and integrate them into a solution that engages their analytical and communication skills,” added Mullins.
Mullins sees LEAD as a powerful marketing tool for the College. Over the past four years, the LEAD program has helped increase the number of African American and Hispanic students who enroll in the College of Business, he said.
“In fact, the College of Business currently enrolls the highest number of African American and Hispanic students on campus. As a result, we are currently attracting top students from across the country.”
Rachel Rodgers has advice for future LEAD students and minority business students: “Look beyond college and graduation and try and see the bigger picture. Look at each experience as a stepping stone rather than as a concrete path. Keep an open mind because opportunities you haven’t even dreamed of may become available to you."