Trey Williams, who will begin his first year at Wofford College in the fall, hasn’t taken his first class, but already he's on campus getting a jumpstart on a successful college experience and ultimately a rewarding career.
Williams is one of 13 students participating this summer in The Institute at Wofford College, an intense, five-week program that offers real-world experiences in professional skills development, leadership and consulting.
"I saw this as a great opportunity," says Williams. "The team at The Space has given us invaluable experience, and they've created an environment that's definitely conducive to success."
As part of the experience, Williams is on a team of students learning about business while working on a consulting project for Adamant Energy Inc., a company that uses innovation, communication and resolve to remove barriers to the deployment of existing energy efficiency technologies. Owners Will Ponder (Wofford Class of 2000) and Chris Dalton (Wofford Class of 2010) charged the student consulting team with creating an in-bound marketing strategy for their fledgling company. On Williams' team are fellow Wofford student Jonathan Martin, a junior finance major from Corpus Christi, Texas; Alex Kramer, a Furman University student from Virginia Beach, Va.; and Jordan Clontz, a Wake Forest student from Nebo, N.C.
Martin is the only one of the four with consulting experience, and he volunteered to work with Adamant because he finds the energy industry fascinating.
"It's a start up, so I feel like we have the potential to make a huge impact," says Martin. "We're working to strike a balance between out-of-the-box thinking and proven strategies to help Adamant Energy facilitate growth."
The team presents its recommendations to Adamant on Wednesday, Aug. 5. Other teams are consulting for the City of Shelby, N.C. (a rail-trail feasibility study) and Chunky Junk (a sales and marketing strategy for the company based in Alwar, India, and Spartanburg, S.C.).
According to Jennifer Dillenger, director of The Space at Wofford, companies bring legitimate business challenges to the student participants. The students then form teams who devise solutions using research, critical-thinking skills and even the fresh perspective of youth. Everything is underpinned by Wofford's liberal arts foundation.
"Along the way we teach students teamwork, design thinking, project management, public speaking, personal finance, time management, negotiating, workplace etiquette and a number of other skills to prepare them to work with company leadership and each other,” says Dillenger.
The Space enhanced the 2015 Institute with a one-week trip to New York City that offered direct industry exposure. The Institute also includes an executive speakers series, a BMW Driving Experience Day and professional profile and resume development.
"Sure we're giving up part of our summer, but we're learning skills, developing strategies and meeting people that will help us grow into the successful adults we want to become," says Martin. "I can't think of a better way to spend my time."
The Institute at Wofford College is a program of The Space in the Mungo Center, where students build upon the college's liberal arts education by developing professional skills desired by employers and graduate schools. No other liberal arts college offers Wofford's innovative set of programs.