June 28, 2017 | Hannah Ebeling

On the final day of YWBI, participants formed teams and headed to Frederik Meijer Gardens to create and present a problem-solving proposal.

From June 21-23, 2017, the Calvin Center for Innovation in Business (CCIB) hosted its sixth annual Calvin Young Women’s Business Institute, a selective, resume-building program for young women entering their junior or senior year of high school. The program aims to equip students to develop their strengths and be provided an opportunity to learn from experienced business professionals.

One of my passions is helping young women envision a future in business,” said Bob Eames, director of CCIB. “I’ve had the opportunity to work with and for so many amazing women in my life.” He hopes the program will enable high schoolers to explore the field of business more and meet women who are finding success in business.

“There is a good balance of content and experience within the program,” said Eames. A big part is also assessment. We try and help each young woman understand how different strengths can find fulfilment and success in business.”

Applied learning environment

From the get go, this three-day program is packed with events and opportunities to explore the world of business. The first day included a welcome dinner, a panel discussion with local business leaders followed by a get-to-know-you mixer.

The next day, students attended five workshop sessions. The young women explored business as a Christian calling, human-centered design and networking. They also learned more about the results of their strengths assessment test, taken the night before, in an interactive workshop. The night ended with a speed-dating style networking dinner, where students were invited to interact with Calvin alumni that are now successful business women. 

On the final day, the young women were challenged to put what they had learned to the test. After brainstorming and perfecting research questions, the students took a trip to Frederik Meijer Gardens to conduct visitor interviews and observe activities. Students formed teams and were tasked to create and present a unique problem-solving proposal for one area of the gardens.

After further developing their ideas and creating thorough concept posters, each team pitched their plan to a representative of the gardens. Proposals included: app and social media development, implementing an electronic tram schedule, improving parents’ and children’s experience through new stroller design and adding audio to an existing art exhibit. The ideas were well received and complimented by the Frederik Meijer Gardens team members.

Opportunity for exploration

Jenna Chapa, a rising senior from Detroit said she enjoyed her time and liked getting to experience college life. “I was able to experience being a college student, going to classes and eating in the dining hall. I’m here with a bunch of people I’ve never met, but I’ve become really close to them,” she said. “It’s really cool to see that there are other girls that are all interested in the same thing I am. And now, we have a community.”

“I heard about this program in our school announcements,” said Kari Mejeur, a rising junior from Kalamazoo Christian High School. “I didn’t really know a lot about business, but I wanted to explore it more. This has opened my options. I’m a creative person, and I didn’t really know you could incorporate that into business.”

Alumni give back

Throughout the program, each girl had the opportunity to hear from and get to know the Young Women’s Business Institute’s mentors, Erin Morehead and Rachel Buick, alumni of the program. Both expressed their appreciation for the program and said they were happy to be contributing this year. “I am excited to see how alumni are paying it forward,” said Eames. Every year previous attendees and Calvin graduates have come back to share at or contribute to the event, he said.                 

Because of its success, there is talk of starting similar programs or events in the coming years, said Eames. “To me this is an exciting program, and I keep thinking about what’s next.”

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