Business program gives Western Nevada College students real world learning
It’s a great time to be a business student at Western Nevada College.
Changes to WNC’s Business program are providing students with important community contacts, real-world training, marketable skills, online course offerings and the opportunity to transfer to a four-year business program as a junior.
The classroom for Business students now extends beyond the WNC campus into downtown Carson City at Adams Hub of Northern Nevada, a small business incubator that provides entrepreneurs with state-of-the-art tools, mentoring and the resources to succeed. As well as meeting key business leaders and collaborating with startup companies at Adams Hub, WNC Business students are developing professional skills that will make them more employable following graduation.
“WNC is a huge part of our community and our goal is to work with WNC and augment what the college is already doing,” said Miya MacKenzie, executive director of the Adams Hub. “They learn some really great theory about how business, marketing and accounting work, but they normally don’t get a chance to apply it until they start their careers. We’re giving students a place to do that where they are working with startup and growing companies.”
WNC Business Professor Robert Whitcomb has hosted a number of events that show students how to function professionally, including dress for success training with Burlington Coat Factory, as well as a networking social that taught them the art of schmoozing.
The biggest change in WNC’s Business program is the launching of an Associate of Business degree starting with the 2016 fall semester.
“Last fall, about 100 students enrolled in the new AB degree,” Whitcomb said. “We view this as an outstanding opportunity for our students who want to transfer to a bachelor program at UNR or UNLV.”
Business students can now choose between an Associate of Applied Science degree in Business, focusing on accounting, general business or management, or they can take courses specifically designed to be on track to enter a four-year university as a junior after completing their Associate of Business degree at WNC. In addition, individuals can take a Certified Bookkeepers course (ACC 290) to prepare for a nationally administered exam provided by the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers. With many opportunities for part-time and temporary work in smaller organizations, students passing the exam could find employment while completing an AAS degree in accounting.
“We have evolved our courses to ensure that students leave WNC with marketable skills,” Whitcomb said. “A business student who has successfully completed any business degree at WNC (AB or AAS) will know how to analyze data (qualitative and quantitative), develop business and marketing plans, manage employees and apply technology to common workplace settings.”
During the fall semester in Whitcomb’s Principles of Marketing class, students were given the fantastic opportunity to create and develop a marketing plan for a business idea. To strengthen their ideas, the students presented their business’ marketing plans to a panel of local business and marketing professionals who provided helpful feedback. The panel included MacKenzie; Michael Salogga, Nevada Small Business Development Center director; Kerstin Plemel, VP of marketing for Greater Nevada Credit Union; Matt Westfield, founder and director of Entrepreneurs Assembly, as well as entrepreneur in residence at University of Nevada, Reno; Jayna Conkey, professor of Graphic Communications at WNC; and Jamie McNinch, Information and Marketing director at WNC.
“The best part of the presentation was the panel,” said WNC student Brenda Sweet, who presented a year-round indoor activity center that included a brand new roller skating rink, two indoor miniature golf courses, a themed climbing excursion, a cosmic arcade and The Rainforest Cafe. “Without the panel, the class would have felt like a regular class. Having the panel made me feel like this was real. I took the marketing plan much more serious. It also gave a real business-like feeling.”
Students presented marketing plans for a variety of other businesses and markets. These included a mobile veterinary service, a nonprofit image salon, a mentorship program, a vegan/gluten free bakery and café, a pizza franchise, a club/resort and a hunting/shooting club.
“The focus of the class was on developing the marketing plan, so students will still need to develop the remainder of their business plan prior to making these creative ideas into reality,” Whitcomb said.
Keeping up with the hectic pace of students’ lives, WNC now offers many of these business-related classes online. This gives busy individuals more flexibility to remain on track to complete their degrees.
Adams Hub has provided WNC business students with the opportunity to learn in a professional environment. Students have been invited to participate in Lunchbox Learning, one-hour training workshops that have focused on topics such as customer complaint resolution, the art of negotiation and the challenges of landing a first job.
“We really want to connect with the WNC student,” MacKenzie said. “We are really seeing our partnership with WNC as a great way to help people who are committed to their education and their careers.”
One of Adams Hub’s programs can significantly assist any WNC Business student who is considering operating their own business. Entrepreneurs Assembly meets once per month and acts as a mentor-based entrepreneurial support organization. It brings together mentors, entrepreneurs and people working on a business idea or startup in a roundtable setting, promoting constructive dialogue and feedback.
“We always invite WNC students to come because they are working on business ideas and they learn what others are struggling with,” MacKenzie said.
It’s a Business education that brings to life what WNC students are reading in their textbooks.
WNC’s Career and Technical Education Division also assists students with locating internships. They can kick-start their professional careers through Rita Groh, WNC’s Employment Success Coordinator. For more information about internships and WNC’s Business programs, phone the CTE Division at 775-445-4272.
Heather Ashbridge, who started with Nevada State Development Corporation in 2008, previously served in several roles with the organization, including assistant vice president and loan officer. She is based in NSDC’s Reno office.