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Students Get Down to Business

Executive women who have attended the Smith College Consortium sing its praises. Not only does the program offer new perspectives on business strategies and leadership roles, they say, but it also affords them the opportunity to meet peers from companies and gain access to a vast high-quality network of executive education program alumnae.

Savvy Smith students may tap into this network of accomplished business leaders as well. Among them are seniors Melissa Benevides of Hudson, Massachusetts, and Jenny Ng of Amherst, Massachusetts, who interned with the Smith Executive Education for Women (SEE) office last summer, assisting in the plans and organization for the two-week consortium.

Smith Executive Education interns Jenny Ng, left, and Melissa Benevides, both seniors, relished the opportunity to be part of the community of corporate women who were on campus this summer. The college's SEE program offers Smith undergraduates crucial exposure to business careers, practices and trends. Photo by Fish/Parham.

Upon hearing about the internship positions, both say they jumped at the opportunity to learn from, and mingle with, the executives who come to the consortium to gain fresh and practical knowledge and experience in leadership, strategy, innovation and career management.

While Benevides and Ng are still considering their first postgraduation jobs and mapping out possible career paths, they easily recognize the benefits that can come from associating with dynamic executives for two weeks.

"It's a good networking opportunity," notes Ng. Being part of the community of corporate women "will teach me how to have more confidence when I get out into the business world myself."

Beginning in early June, Benevides and Ng cheerfully worked long days at the executive education office on Green Street as they negotiated services with vendors, answered phones and assembled course books and gift bags for the consortium's 53 participants. They describe the three-person staff of the SEE office -- Iris Marchaj, consortium site coordinator; Louis Krieger, information/technical assistant; and Barbara Reinhold, director -- as "invaluable resources."

"I love this office group," says Benevides. "They're like mentors to us. Working with a team of very knowledgeable women is great."

Once the program was under way, Benevides and Ng were front and center staffing the program's sessions. Beyond the training sessions, Benevides, an English major, and Ng, an East Asian studies major, also relished the less formal occasions when they could meet the executives during the lunches or dinners held throughout the consortium.

"I'm very interested in what they have to say about the business world and what it's like working in a [management] environment that is still very much a man's world," notes Benevides, who plans to work in publishing or marketing for a few years before pursuing an MBA. "I want to know how it's going to be when I get into that world."

Another program that reflects Smith's efforts to help young women take hold of their financial futures is Smith's Women and Financial Independence (WFI) program, launched in fall 2001. This spring OppenheimerFunds, Inc., a leading asset management firm, and Smith formed a partnership to further promote financial empowerment among women. Portfolio managers from OppenheimerFunds will teach WFI classes on the economy and on financial principles. The firm is also inviting Smith students to submit their résumés for internships with the company.

Likewise, in April 2005, students will be invited to attend a leadership conference, still in the development phase, which will be open to all undergraduates as well as alumnae from the college and from all the executive education programs for women.
Smith, in turn, will ask the executives to mentor Smith students who are interested in business. It won't be a hard sell, says Reinhold. "[The executives] who get to know and work with them always love our interns." -- JME

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