July 23, 2013 | Grace Ruiter

11th and 12th grade girls explored careers in business at Calvin Young Women's Business Institute

Seventeen girls came to Calvin for the second Calvin Young Women’s Business Institute (CYWBI) from July 17-19. Offered through the Calvin Center for Innovation in Business (CCIB), the CYWBI gives high school junior and senior girls the chance to explore careers in business and connect with area businesswomen.

“[Our hope] is that they get exposed to a lot of people and ideas that are new,” Bob Eames, the director of the CCIB, explained.

A good experience

The experience was a good one for Taylor Jones, who is going into her junior year at Grand Rapids City High School.

“I appreciated everyone who came out and gave us their time,” Jones said. “I know I want to go into business, so this helped me get a better idea of what that will be like.”

Although Lia Gelder, a homeschooler planning to attend Calvin in the fall, was less confident about her career plans, she echoed Jones, saying, “I don’t know if I’ll be going into business, but now I have more of an understanding of what I could do in business.”

Exploring business

The packed itinerary for CYWBI featured a plethora of opportunities to dive into the business world. Arriving the evening on July 17, the young women enjoyed a welcome dinner and panel discussion with three female graduates of the business program at Calvin. After the panel, West Michigan meteorologist and co-host of "eightWest" Terri Deboer talked to the girls about being a woman of faith in the business world.

The following day, the ladies reviewed the results of a StrengthsFinder test with a human resources professional from Calvin, sat through a mock business class and took a campus tour. At dinner, they had the opportunity to network with women from the Grand Rapids business community. And later at night, they met up with the Passport (Calvin’s orientation for incoming freshmen) group to attend the improv show.

On the last day of CYWBI, the young women got the chance to apply what they’d learned, working in teams to analyze the customer experience at the Fulton Street Farmer’s Market. The girls reconvened at GRid70—a design hub for major companies like Amway, Steelcase and Wolverine—where each team put together a poster, and presented its findings and recommendations for improving the market experience.

The highlights

For Jones, the final day at CYWBI was a highlight.

“I really liked what we did on the last day—the experience of going to a place, finding the pros and cons [of the customer experience] and then analyzing how you can make it better,” Jones reflected.

Northpointe Christian School senior Ade Lyons found the StrengthsFinder test helpful: "I don't really know if I want to go into business, but [the StrengthsFinder test] helped me see where my strengths are, and four out of five were good for a career in business, so now I might look at that more."

Lyons added that she learned a lot from the networking events with Grand Rapids-area businesswomen.

A challenge accepted

It was Mary Tuuk’s desire to facilitate those interactions between aspiring businesswomen and successful women in business that inspired the institute.

Tuuk, executive vice president of corporate services for Fifth Third Bancorp, had many role models who made it clear that, as a woman, she could do whatever she wanted. They gave her the confidence to enter the male-dominated business world. But she realized that many girls didn’t have those role models in their lives. She resolved to change that, calling on the CCIB to create a program for connecting those girls with female role models who could encourage them to dream big.

The CCIB accepted Tuuk’s challenge, and the CYWBI was born.

A wonderful opportunity

The program may only be in its second year, but according to Eames, it is making a big difference already.

“It’s such a wonderful opportunity,” he said. “[As the director of CCIB], I get a front row seat for a lot of big learning.”

To be accepted into the program, girls must have at least a 3.5 GPA, submit two recommendations and write an essay. All program expenses are covered by donors. 

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