The Professional Development Dinner, now in its fifth year, is hosted by the Native American & Hispanic Business Students.

Practice makes perfect: an age-old saying that holds true today, especially when it comes to students practicing networking. On Jan. 16, the Native American & Hispanic Business Students hosted its fifth annual Professional Development Dinner to help Broad Spartans practice their networking skills with business leaders from General Motors, Altria, JP Morgan Chase, Amway and more.

“One of the biggest things is getting comfortable in a networking situation. That’s something you have to get comfortable with,” Jon Wallace (B.A. Marketing ’16), a past president of NAHBS and the founder of the Professional Development Dinner, said. He attended this year’s event as a corporate rep from GM.

Broad alumnus and former NAHBS president Jon Wallace (center) founded the Professional Development Dinner event.

“This event is important to me because it’s a group of students who are actively trying to develop themselves professionally,” he said. “I’m in a cool position because I’m only 25 and a recent graduate, so I can help them bridge that gap.”

Kevin Leonard, senior program coordinator for the Multicultural Business Programs, also reflected on the creation of the Professional Development Dinner and its consistent growth.

“That first time in a formal setting can be intimidating, and if you don’t know what you’re doing, you can make some social faux pas in front of the wrong people,” he said. “Five years ago, I gave Jon a mission to come up with an idea, and here we are.”

Students connected with corporate leaders and competed in a case study, perfecting critical skills for success in business.

The event also has a case study component. This year’s case study was developed by Gabe Garbek, a junior studying supply chain management and secretary of NAHBS. He explained his desire to examine the traditional retail model and common problems companies have faced.

“The first thing that came to mind was Sears and how they refused to revolutionize their business, ultimately to their own detriment,” Garbek said. The goal was to analyze how stores using the traditional retail model can adapt to have a competitive advantage against Amazon and other e-commerce companies.

“I didn’t want to focus on any one business. I really just took a bunch of retail problems and combined them into one business and challenged students to find a solution,” Garbek said.

“The nice thing about this event is that it’s a combination of teaching both etiquette and case studies. Case studies are an increasingly common thing at this university, especially in the Broad College,” Leonard said. “This experience gives students a good exposure to case studies in a relaxed environment that they can draw upon in the future.”