California Connection

School of Business Faculty and staff meet with industry leaders and alumni in Silicon Valley

This spring, 17 faculty and members of the School’s leadership team traveled to the San Francisco Bay Area to meet with major companies and network with alumni. The excursion was part of the University’s Wake West initiative, which continues to expand with CareerTreks, internships, networking, and educational events in an effort to bring Wake Forest to the world.

The idea for the trip began with a conversation between Dean Charles Iacovou and BlackRock, Inc. Managing Director Robert Fischbach, who also serves on the School’s Board of Visitors. When an opportunity came to connect faculty with major companies in the area, interest among the School’s faculty and leadership grew.

“There is an ongoing effort to connect campus with the outside world and particularly to the business world,” said Michelle Roehm, School of Business Vice Dean of Faculty. “It’s about connecting the textbook to the real world.”

Over a three-day period, faculty visited BlackRock, Inc., the world’s largest asset manager; Adobe; Airbnb; and Plaid, a leading financial technology company. Professors were able to engage in rich conversations with industry leaders about the challenges and opportunities facing their industries.

“The marketplace is looking for people who work hard, are willing to fail, have grit, and can work on teams and adapt,” said Assistant Professor Carolina Salge. “The trip was a way to stay connected to the industry, which is very important to us.”

Assistant Professor of Finance Philip Howard teaches undergraduate students and graduate students enrolled in the Master of Business Analytics program. One theme emerged out of his conversations during the trip: While companies are managing massive amounts of data, they find that entry-level professionals are struggling with getting a clean data set.

“We are teaching students how to run regressions and models and employers love those skills, but I want to give my students more experience with unstructured data. When I reteach the course next year, I’m going to incorporate what I learned and challenge my students. I think that’s going to be very valuable for them.”

In conjunction with this trip, the School’s Office of Alumni Engagement offered a networking event for Wake Forest alumni, parents, and students. “We couldn’t miss the opportunity to connect our Wake Forest community in the Bay Area with so many of our faculty and School leaders,” said Executive Director of Alumni Engagement Stacy Owen. “Bringing these constituencies together was a great reminder that the Wake Forest network is alive and well outside of North Carolina. We have a strong alumni presence in California, and the San Francisco Bay Area is a particularly attractive market for students and alumni.”

The reception was held at Handshake’s corporate headquarters with 40 attendees. “I loved how we introduced ourselves and then were asked to meet someone we didn’t know,” one guest said. “Starting the evening that way made the event immediately friendly and fun.”

A Wake Forest parent attending the reception said the reception was time well spent. “Wake events are always engaging. My daughter is a rising junior at Wake and she was able to talk with two recent graduates and do other networking at the event.”

“It’s fun to get together and be Deacs for a day,” said Roehm. “There’s a real hunger for that.”

After the success of this first trip, the School is planning other faculty excursions over the summer and during fall break.

“We continue to find ways to connect our alumni to each other, and connect our students to opportunities and people in the Bay Area,” said Andy Chan, Wake Forest University Vice President of Innovation and Career Development.