An on-campus ice cream shop 100 percent run by John F. Welch College of Business students is the latest addition to The Welch Experience — an innovative program designed to give Sacred Heart Business undergraduates the kind of professional experience needed to effectively explore career options and succeed in today’s competitive business world.
Scheduled to open in October, the shop will feature specialty, hand-crafted treats made by Walnut Beach Ice Cream in Milford — with its success reliant on how well students not only handle their specific responsibilities, but work together as a team.
“We asked employers from throughout the region what we could do to create graduates who are prepared to become future business leaders. Then we turned their answers into The Welch Experience, which enhances classroom learning by giving students the skills and foundation needed to take their career goals to the highest possible level,” said Welch College Director of Student Experience Sean Heffron. “Not surprisingly, one of the ‘musts’ we heard most often from the employers we approached was real-life business experience."
For sure, students will get that at the ice cream shop. Although the venture will have a faculty adviser, students will be responsible for everything from creating new flavors and purchasing supplies to scheduling needed staff, creating a marketing plan and managing the financials.
“Every detail and, ultimately, the shop’s success or failure, will be up to them,” said Heffron.
Also key components of The Welch Experience and the professional development it provides are community-based internships and mentorships. To help students build their resume, narrow their career focus and gain confidence, students spend at least one semester working in their area of interest at one of the many businesses Sacred Heart partners with. Additionally, each freshman is paired with a junior student mentor, and sophomores can ask to receive a Welch College alumni mentor who has volunteered to provide job shadowing, career advice and more.
Other aspects of this integrative program — which the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business and other leaders consider the benchmark for business education — include:
Enhanced academic experience. Technology is emphasized, and each student creates a state-of-the-art electronic portfolio to track projects, presentations, career development and extra-curricular activities. A speaker series brings accomplished professionals to campus to discuss business issues and trends, and top students are given the opportunity to take on paid positions as research assistants to Welch College faculty.
Career planning and professional development. Access to industry-specific professionals, professional organizations and networking groups help students make contacts while learning. Business etiquette events show how to navigate challenging situations, while job search-specific learning tools focus on acing interviews and writing a winning resume.
Co-curricular activities. Regular "Coffee Break" gatherings give students and faculty the opportunity to discuss business news and events. Business-related academic clubs also help students develop their teamwork and leadership skills.
“I don’t know if it’s totally true that more business is done on the golf course than in the board room," Heffron said. “But it’s definitely true that great networking and conversations take place on the golf course, which is why as part of The Welch Experience we offer business students free golf lessons."
The school also hosts an annual Welch Cup Classic Golf Tournament where foursomes that consist of a student, faculty member, alum and local business person spend the day together.
"Last year, 14 groups went out, and nine students came back with either interview or internship opportunities," Heffron said. " Golf is going to give our students an advantage, and we have a golf course nearby, we're going to provide it."
Global awareness. For Welch students who want to study abroad during the winter or summer break at Sacred Heart’s campuses in Luxembourg or Ireland, or at John Cabot University in Rome, tuition is waived for that course so students only have to incur the expense of travel. The international aspect of business today is also stressed in classes like International Financial Management, International Marketing and International Accounting.
“Intercultural sensitivity is an essential aspect of business today,” Heffron added. “No matter where you're working, or what job you’re doing, you’re interacting with people from other cultures and places. Not only does this help our students at the professional level, but their experience learning to navigate in a different culture will help them as they transition into starting with a new company—another place with different rules, cultures, and vocabulary . The Welch Experience takes a true, total holistic approach to developing students in and outside the classroom.”