Every semester for the last 14 years, Kevin Jackson has welcomed new students to his Illinois accountancy classroom. But this semester, as the new Associate Dean of Undergraduate Affairs, he’s welcoming many more new students—634 freshmen in fact–and working to help them make the most of their time in and out of the classroom. Here, Jackson shares his thoughts on what makes the Gies Business undergraduate experience unique.
Q: What are today’s students looking for in a Business career?
A: Students today are more focused on the question of “why” than the question of “what.” It’s less about “What job can I get?” or “What should I major in?” and more about “Why is it important to pursue a business career?” For some students, one motivation may be money, and that’s fine. But most often there’s another motivator, and that’s finding a purpose. I recently heard three of our honors students talking about the opportunity for a business career to make a difference in the world—that’s what being purpose-driven is all about.
Q: How can the College help students find their purpose?
A: It’s part of our mindset at Gies. We focus on creating a culture of true community where students can express their opinions openly and safely, where they can have authentic conversations and develop high-quality relationships. This creates an undergraduate experience where students are free to explore options, discover possibilities, and become empathetic, purpose-driven leaders.
Q: How can alumni support the undergraduate experience?
A: Just as our students are purpose-driven, our alumni seek purpose in how they engage with students, how they choose to give back, and in how they represent their alma mater. Some provide internships and other opportunities for students. Some serve on College advisory boards or provide financial support. Others offer their expertise in visits to the classroom. All our alumni are important ambassadors for our College, but more importantly, they are part of the Gies community—a community that benefits from their involvement and hopefully one where they continue to find purpose.