Business & Society

Big Business at Utah State

What do Malcolm Forbes, Milton Friedman, Dave Thomas, James Burke and Jon Huntsman all have in common? Well, aside from being America's top executives and CEOs of the business world, they’ve all been feature speakers at a Partners in Business seminar for Utah State University.

The world's top business leaders have visited Utah State for the past 33 years, thanks to the Partners in Business program. But it’s not the administration that reels in these speakers- - all the work is entirely the product of students. Through the Partners program, students have a chance to coordinate one of eight business seminars held each year. They are responsible for inviting featured speakers like the ones mentioned earlier.

"Coordinators invite companies they are interested in working for some day," said Lindsay Schiess, assistant director for Partners. "It gives them a chance to interact on an intimate basis with business professionals who are top executives."

Many student coordinators in the past have received job offers or internships from their involvement with Partners. Ross Robson, executive director of the program, said one student coordinator invited an executive from Delta to speak. The student picked him up at the airport, shadowed him the whole day, and gave him a resume. Three months later, he applied for a position with Delta and was competing on a national level. He got the job.

"It was a slam dunk for him," said Robson. "He set out to work for Delta, and he accomplished it solely by working for Partners in Business."

Robson mentioned that other students involved with Partners have ended up at some of the nation's major companies, including O.C. Tanner, 3M, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Ford Motors and Wall Street as a result of their experience with the program.

"There is no other organization like us in the United States," said Schiess. "It is all student run, which makes some people skeptical. But when they see the speakers lined up for each seminar, they see how professional it really is."

The recent Information Technology seminar proved the professional level of the program when Dr. Peter Chen, creator of the internationally acclaimed Entity Relationship model, spoke about information modeling. Chen not only attracted students going into the field but businesses from all over the Intermountain area. Aside from the technical explanations of his widely-used model, he offered advice on getting ahead in life.
"You need to have the right idea, the right place, the right time, and persistence if you believe in your own vision," he said.

Many other featured speakers offer similar encouragement to those who attend the seminars. Robson said that businesses from all over Utah pay to hear these professionals, and it is one-fifth the cost of other national professional training forums. But it's free for any Utah State student.

"By attending these seminars, students can get info and ideas from top CEOs you couldn't get anywhere else," said Schiess. "I wish more students knew about it."

But many do know about it and are taking advantage of the seminars. Brad Zobrist, a student coordinator for the year 2001-02, said his experience with Partners taught him the principle of networking and has helped him get recommendations for internships.

"It's best to get involved early," said Zobrist, who has participated in the Partners program since Spring 1999. "The more opportunities you have to meet and talk with CEOs and managers of companies, the better your chances are to find one that clicks and offers you a job."

Students like Zobrist pile into the Eccles Conference Center on campus during each seminar to hear what the professionals have to say. Schiess has seen many of these students succeed in their networking efforts, and she recommends being a student coordinator or student host to anyone interested.

"It's a great thing to see all your work come together," she said. "It gives students the opportunity to shine and show professionals they could be an asset to their company."

For more information on future Partners in Business seminars, call USU Partners in Business at 435-797-2279 or 1-800-472-9965 or visit the Web site at

Contacts: Lindsay Schiess, (435) 797-8270
Marie Bonham, (435) 797-3844
Writer: Miaken Christensen, (435) 797-1350;

Comments and questions regarding this article may be directed to the contact person listed on this page.

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