By Monica Chapman and Kerry Kong
For Ashley Jones, the decision to attend Ohio University's College of Business was a no-brainer.
She can even pinpoint the week that her Bobcat pride took root -- during the Junior Executive Program, an intensive hands-on business workshop geared toward high-achieving minority high school students.
"When I went through the Junior Executive Program, I was so in love," she recalled. "That program really helped me make my decision on where I wanted to go to school."
Today, Jones is returning the favor by channeling her enthusiasm back into minority recruitment for the College of Business.
As vice president of programming and external affairs for the Black Student Business Caucus (BSBC), she was among the movers and shakers at this past weekend's Focus on the Future program. Supported financially by Deloitte, a multi-national professional services firm, the program offers up to 30 multicultural high school juniors a taste of the College of Business through a three-day, all-expense-paid program on the Athens campus.
Now in its fifth year, the program featured a mock marketing class with Visiting Professor John Kiger, an etiquette dinner, lessons in networking and a meet-and-greet with College of Business faculty and Dean Hugh Sherman. The events culminated with BSBC's 20-year anniversary dinner Saturday evening in Nelson Commons.
President Roderick J. McDavis welcomed the high school attendees and shared the story of John Newton Templeton, who in 1828 became the first African-American to graduate from Ohio University and the fourth such college graduate in the nation.
"We are all standing on the shoulders of those who came before us," McDavis told the high-schoolers. "Every time I talk with young students on campus and they tell me how difficult it is, I tell the story of John Templeton. I tell the story of a man who, against all odds, got his education."
During his keynote address, alumnus and BSBC founder Byron Ward pointed to McDavis' appointment as a major milestone for Ohio University.
"If you ask people from our era in the late '80s and early '90s, I don't think any of us would have imagined that in less than 20 years, we would have an African-American as the president of Ohio University," said Ward, vice president of implementation and support services for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Learning Technology.
As BSBC's biggest event, Focus on the Future planning begins fall quarter, said BSBC President Shawna Bonner. Organization members work with Undergraduate Admissions to target high schools in Cincinnati, Columbus and Dayton that yield the highest Ohio University attendance figures as well as Athens High School. Many also work through their former high school guidance counselors to attract high-performing juniors with an interest in business.
"It gets our students involved with recruiting minorities into the College of Business," said Bonner, a senior accounting and management information systems major. "That is our main focus."
Between fall 2007 and fall 2008, the College of Business saw an 18.6 percent increase in the number of African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic and Native American students on the Athens campus. According to Beatrice Selotlegeng, adviser to BSBC, these gains are due in part to the Focus on the Future and the Junior Executive programs. She said 24 Junior Executive participants currently attend Ohio University.
BSBC members began meeting with the college's executive staff this quarter to discuss ways to further increase diversity within the college -- a key initiative.
"We are proud of the leadership of BSBC. They organized an outstanding recruiting and mentoring program, bringing to campus and working with talented high school juniors from around the state," Sherman said. "We are confident that several of these talented high schools students will come to Ohio University and be the future members of BSBC."
Jones is quick to point out what she considers to be a fool-proof road to success for minority students: from Focus on the Future, to the Junior Executive Program, to enrolling at Ohio University, to membership in the BSBC.
It's a natural progression that paves the way for a tremendous college experience, said Jones, who maintains contact with many of last year's Focus on the Future participants through Facebook.
"We are interested in seeing (these students) do well," said Pamela Hall, a senior consultant with Deloitte, which has provided $5,000 each of the past three years to support the Focus on the Future program. Hall said that by supporting business education, Deloitte also is improving its pool of future job candidates.
And though the program is still gaining momentum, Bonner is confident of its effectiveness.
"It's going to take time for this to grow and for counselors to know how well this program can benefit their students," she said. "But I can see it growing and truly making a difference."