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Sunday, Dec 21, 2014

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BLP-Team Exel

Students assigned to work with Exel are seen during the Bobcat Leadership Project, held Dec. 13-15 at Ohio University.

Photo courtesy of: Career and Leadership Development Center

BLP-Team TQL

Students assigned to work with Total Quality Logistics are seen during Ohio University’s first-ever Bobcat Leadership Project.

Photo courtesy of: Career and Leadership Development Center

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Students gain career experience while impressing potential employers at new Bobcat Leadership Project


It’s not every day that college students have an opportunity to pitch their ideas to employers from the international logistics industry. It is even rarer when those employers opt to implement such ideas at their respective companies. A new initiative developed by Ohio University’s Career and Leadership and Development Center (CLDC) allowed students to do just that.

The center held the first-ever Bobcat Leadership Project at Ohio University Dec. 13-15. Fully funded by the center, the weekend-long experience provided 11 OHIO students from academic units throughout the Athens Campus the opportunity to learn firsthand about real challenges facing some U.S. companies and then develop ways to meet those challenges.

According to Erin Perdue, assistant director for leadership at the CLDC, the Bobcat Leadership Project was created to allow OHIO students – regardless of their background or academic interests – an opportunity for professional development outside of the traditional classroom and to work with potential employers. The overall goal of the program is to prepare the students for their future careers.

“We had students from a vast range of majors, including undergrads and grads, participate in this pilot project,” said Perdue. “During the Bobcat Leadership Project, these students had to think about things that any potential employer – from HR representatives to budgetary and finance people – would have to think about in their everyday jobs. This professional development exercise will be useful in just about any career opportunity.”

Part of the Bobcat Leadership Project weekend was devoted to “mini sessions” focused on developing leadership skills. The bulk of the experience, however, was spent with the students divided into two groups, which were then paired with one of two logistics companies – Total Quality Logistics (TQL) and Exel.

One of the nation’s largest freight brokerage firms, TQL was founded in Cincinnati in 1997, and today is one of that city’s largest employers. Based in Westerville, Ohio, Exel is a leading contract logistics provider, employing about 40,000 associates at more than 500 sites throughout the United States, Canada and Latin America.

TQL and Exel representatives distributed real-world case studies to their respective Bobcat Leadership Project group and asked the students to develop multiple potential solutions. At the end of the weekend, the student groups presented their ideas to the companies.

Sheanda Shea, a junior in the College of Health Sciences and Professions, was part of the group assigned to Exel. Shea explained that her group’s case study included selecting new company locations, creating company culture from a human resources perspective and analyzing the role of an operations supervisor who oversees 20 hourly employees.

According to Shea, focusing on each group member’s unique strengths helped the students to create an exceptional presentation.
 
 “The Bobcat Leadership Project allowed participants from all educational disciplines to benefit from the case studies,” said Shea. “Management, leadership and human resources were all aspects that were incorporated into the Exel case study. As a health services administration major, I greatly enjoyed working with multidisciplinary teams and believe it provided me with an experience that I can apply to a future career.”

“The Bobcat Leadership Project will help me a lot in my future career,” said Yuan Wen, a graduate student in the College of Arts and Sciences who participated in the program. “What I think I learned most is teamwork and how to communicate with people to establish efficient problem solving.”

Students were not the only Bobcat Leadership Project participants pleased with the experience. Perdue said that both employers had positive reactions to the project and that she had heard from an Exel employee that he has already taken into consideration some of the students’ ideas.

“I was very happy with the way the students contributed and applied themselves to the project,” said Greg Bline, a college recruiter at Exel and graduate of OHIO’s College Student Personnel Master’s Program. “They produced a great presentation with insightful results, and I’ve shared their presentation with co-workers.”

The Career and Leadership Development Center hopes to make the Bobcat Leadership Project an annual event with additional employers in order to accommodate more students.

“I was very impressed with the planning done to make the Bobcat Leadership Project successful and with the students that participated,” said Bline. “It was obvious the CLDC put in a lot of hard work to create this great experience.