July 30, 2012 | Chelsea Tanis

12th grade girls explore the world of business and meet business leaders from the Grand Rapids area.

On July 18-20, Calvin hosted 12 high school senior girls from across the Midwest for the very first Young Women’s Business Institute. The event—sponsored by the Calvin Center for Innovation in Business—was created to expose young women to business-related careers and introduce them to businesswomen as people they could look up to.

“We want to get these girls excited about business and encourage them to pursue business,” said Gwen Vryhof Bultema, program coordinator for the Calvin Center for Innovation in Business.

The event was prompted by the center’s research regarding the gap between the number of men and women who choose to study business.

“We found that women have fewer role models in business. They just don’t see it as a possibility," said Vryhof Bultema, “We want them to be able to say, ‘I can do anything I want to, even if other women haven’t done it before.’”

To be considered for the Young Women’s Business Institute, applicants had to have a minimum GPA of 3.5, be involved in extracurricular activities and provide a letter of recommendation. While many of the girls were exploring business for the first time, others have long expressed an interest in the field.

“I love selling stuff and creating something that will catch people’s eye,” attendee Tanesha Jordan explained while between sessions.

The agenda included a few lectures from Calvin faculty, and, on Wednesday evening, Wood TV 8 meteorologist Terri DeBoer joined the girls for dinner.

“Not many people realize that Terri was a trailblazer,” said Vryhof Bultema, “She became the first female in Michigan to earn the American Meteorological Society's Television Seal of Approval.”

DeBoer spoke about her faith, balancing work and family and the importance of living a life of transparency.

On Thursday evening, the girls went to Uptown Kitchen to meet with owner and recent Calvin graduate Kelly LeCoy, along with other businesswomen from the Grand Rapids area. Then on Friday, they went to the Fulton Street Market to observe the buying experience and later met with Amway for a workshop on human centered design.

Overall, the Center for Innovation in Business counts the event as a great success. In the weeks to come, they plan to debrief all those involved in the program to ensure that the institute remains relevant and inspirational to young women.

“Our deep thanks goes out to all those—within the Calvin community and the broader, Grand Rapids community—who contributed their time and energies to this remarkable program,” said Vryhof Bultema, “We hope to continue providing young women with experiences for engagement and growth in the coming years.”

Students at Fulton Street Market

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