Preparing or the Real World:
The Newel K. Whitney Society brings communication and business students together for a business world full of opportunity.
By John Walker, a senior communications major from Medford, Ore.
In a small conference room tucked away in the
Joseph Fielding Smith Building on the Brigham Young University–Idaho campus sits a group of very animated young men and women. There might not be much about the meeting that would grab the attention of a passerby, just a handful of students and two faculty members chatting away.
But if one were to just sit in that rectangle-shaped room, a bolt of quiet anticipation and eager smiles would tell that passerby one thing—something wonderful is developing at BYU–Idaho: the Newel K. Whitney Society.
Why Newel K. Whitney?
Newel K. Whitney was an early convert to the Church when Joseph and Emma Smith moved to Kirtland, Ohio, in 1831. His generosity as the owner of Kirtland’s general store provided means for the growth of the Church while in Kirtland, as well as a place for the School of the Prophets to meet together and study the gospel. It was a phase of preparation for the Church and for the Prophet Joseph as he received revelation while living under the Whitneys’ generous roof.¹
The Whitney Society at BYU–Idaho is founded under these same principles—a means by which students can prepare and improve themselves by learning from one another under the guidance of secular and gospel principles.
Just as Newel K. Whitney sought to live a life that would bless others, the Whitney Society is designed to provide means by which students can realize their full potential to bless others. “The Church has invested a lot of money into education here at BYU–Idaho. As students hone skills and abilities they have been blessed with, they will become better disciples,” said Adam Bair ’05, director of special projects for the College of Business and Communication.
The Whitney Society Unveiled:
Last year a group of graduating students, faculty, and alumni came together and discussed what the College of Business and Communication could do to improve the student experience. “While the response varied, one theme stood out. Students wanted to have more help in reaching career goals before graduating,” said Robyn Bergstrom, associate dean of the College of Business and Communication.
From this small group came the big idea of the Whitney Society. As the concept of the Whitney Society took shape with students at the helm, one thing became clear—this isn’t your typical student society.
The group’s design gives students an edge when approaching the real world—one filled with opportunity and demanding markets, but where there is no room for graduates who aren’t prepared.
The College of Business and Communication has been a multi-program school designed to bring six unique and varied departments together. Within the college are Departments of Accounting, Business Management, Communication, Economics, Information Systems, and Recreation Leadership.
Individually, these departments offer a curriculum to prepare students for the future. “But education must go beyond the classroom. By giving students an opportunity to use skills and abilities outside the classroom, we will create a better-quality student,” said Fenton Broadhead, dean of the College of Business and Communication.
The Whitney Society provides a venue for students from all six departments to relate, learn, and grow together. In addition to providing these opportunities, “the Whitney Society will help students connect with the many other societies within the college and become more involved in preparing for their future,” said Bair.
“The Newel K. Whitney Society is here to bring us together. We’re the umbrella,” Broadhead said.
Preparing for the Real World:
In the business world today, organizations depend on people who have solid understanding and background. Students who participate in the Whitney Society receive skills they need to survive in the challenging business world.
“We are trying to take education and put it into a business mode,” said Bergstrom, who is a strong advocate of students getting outside experience before graduation. “Students know what they need to do to make their future goals happen. They are being mentored by faculty, but it’s time to give students the opportunity to do the same,” Bergstrom said.
The Whitney Society gives students the opportunity to mentor, teach, and learn from one another through mock interviews, career workshops, career management seminars, and internship opportunities. All of these programs merge with the Whitney Society’s commitment to teach leadership and personal finance and to help students learn what they must do to start a small business.
Eddy dos Santos, a senior from Sao Paulo, Brazil, and a director of entrepreneurship in the Whitney Society, hopes that one concept called an incubator can help students get a head start on their small business idea. The incubator would give small low-interest loans to students who present a workable business plan, and they would then receive guidance and direction from experienced businessmen.
“Teachers can teach you about creating a business all they want, but until you actually get together with others to make it happen, you don’t have that real-life experience,” said Becky Boushley, a senior from Glendale, Ariz., and vice president of Whitney Society’s internal affairs.
It is the concept of real-life experience that is at the heart of the Whitney Society. It starts with helping freshmen set up a four-year plan to graduate with specific career goals in mind and continues through the skills of seniors graduating and moving into the real world.
College contacts with companies and employers from across the nation help broaden the horizons of those graduating seniors. Kevin Youngquist, a senior from Minneapolis, Minn., said the opportunities that arise from BYU–Idaho, like the internship he landed at Volkswagen of America last summer, have helped him realize his potential in a real-world working environment.
“If anything, it gives you exposure. It really opened my eyes to the corporate world. It provided a way so if I would have liked to have gone down that road, I could have,” Youngquist said.
The College of Business and Communication creates opportunities for students to get a running start on their careers and become “Employable Quality Graduates.”
A Vision for the Future:
From entrepreneur workshops to public speaking contests, the College of Business and Communication is full of activities for the growth of students wanting to improve.
“We are an improvement society, not a prove society,” Boushley said.
In other words, the Whitney Society is not for perfect students; it is for all students. This way students can improve one another in a non-threatening environment without the fear of comparisons and judgment. A student with no experience who wants to improve entrepreneur skills will receive the same warm welcome as a student who has already started multiple businesses. The inexperienced student can look to peers as a model for entrepreneurship in a first-hand way, asking questions and learning from things others have done.
President Gordon B. Hinckley said it best when he spoke candidly at the dedication of the Gordon B. Hinckley Building at BYU–Idaho in 2002:
have to be a genius. You don’t have to be a straight-A student. You just
have to do your very best with all the capability you have…you are not
geniuses. I know that. But the work of the world isn’t done by geniuses.
It is done by ordinary people who have learned to work in an
Robyn Bergstrom sees the equality of the Whitney Society as a definite advantage for developing talents before entering the business world. “The Newel K. Whitney Society helps students build their skills the way they want,” Bergstrom said. In fact, the Whitney Society has various areas where students can focus on distinct skills exactly the way they want:
Leadership and Training
This area focuses on workshops emphasizing leadership, ethics and values, personal finance, training for graduate entrance exams (GMAT, GRE), and conferences outside of BYU–Idaho.
Students who compete now will be better prepared to enter the business world where nearly everything is a competition. The Whitney Society is helping involve students in business plan competitions, entrepreneur of the year, debate and public speaking, and case study competitions.
What business society would be complete without emphasizing entrepreneurship? The Whitney Society focuses on motivating students to be the business leaders of tomorrow through micro enterprise and workshops discussing anything and everything about entrepreneurship.
Business Summit, Entrepreneurship Conference, and Communication Day are some of the events the Whitney Society is involved in, not to mention socials and special events.
Truly the Newel K. Whitney Society is more than just an umbrella; it’s a bridge taking students from the College of Business and Communication to their next ventures in life. SM
2. Hinckley, G. B. (2002, Oct. 22). Dedication of the Gordon B. Hinckley Building. Brigham Young University-Idaho. Retrieved from web.byui.edu/presentations.