“We want nothing more than to help you,” said Michael Watrous, ’03, in his opening remarks to current students at the Jepson EDGE Institute.

Life after graduation can be a daunting prospect for many college students. That’s what makes Watrous’ comment so powerful and why, every year, Jepson alumni return to the University of Richmond campus to lead the Jepson EDGE Institute.

Now in its fifth year, the Institute is designed to give leadership studies students a professional advantage in the world and workplace. The program was endowed by a generous gift from Art Brown, R’81, and Terrie Thompson Brown, W’79.

“I’ve discussed leadership with thousands of executives over my career. While most prospective candidates study the company or institution, far fewer have prepared themselves to have a discussion that aims to create value and impact, connects experiences with competencies, and builds an authentic relationship,” said Art Brown, a consultant in Spencer Stuart’s global Consumer Practice and a member of the firm’s Board, CEO, Private Equity, Marketing and Sales Officer Practices. Brown also serves on the Jepson School Executive Board of Advisors.

More than 43 Jepson alumni from diverse industries, including government, law, business, healthcare, academia, and nonprofit, helped to organize and lead this year’s Institute.

“The Jepson EDGE is the passion and engagement of the Jepson alumni community, giving their time and talents helping students prepare. As a student, it has to be inspiring and humbling to have alumni committed to your personal development. And the Jepson alumni understand that the best leaders are legacy builders,” said Brown.

This year’s workshops and panels included interviewing, managing work and life, and professional etiquette. Alumni shared with students how their leadership studies degrees helped them find their jobs and how they apply the skills they gained at the Jepson School in their daily lives.

“Jepson provides an active, ethical education that has practical applications in a myriad of industries; I want students to open their minds to all of the possibilities and connect with alumni that can help them explore those options further,” said Lacie Leming, ’13, a senior associate at IFC International.

Jacob Salamy, ’18, who plans to pursue a master’s degree in urban planning and work specifically in the area of economic development, said that he grew in his understanding of how Jepson graduates are able to succeed by applying their leadership studies education in a wide variety of industries.

 “The most important thing I took away from the Jepson EDGE Institute was understanding work culture and what tactics work in getting ahead and which do not,” said Marius Young, ’18.

Leming, who is currently serving as co-chair of the Jepson Alumni Corps student engagement committee, explained that this year’s program also added a Pre-EDGE workshop based on student feedback from previous years.

“We provided tips for prepping for EDGE, networking with alumni before and after the event, as well as practicing, writing, and delivering an elevator pitch,” said Leming, noting that juniors would be ready to “hone their elevator pitch, get answers to their specific questions at EDGE, and forge connections with Jepson alumni.”

The program not only enables students to learn from alumni but also to get to know them through workshops and networking sessions.

“EDGE taught me how blessed I am to be a student at Richmond and, more specifically, a student in Jepson,” said Alexa Rennie, ’18. “I realized the importance of networking and how willing and dedicated Jepson alumni are to make sure students are as successful as they can be.”

The connection between Jepson School alumni and current students is one that the School values. “The Jepson EDGE Institute is particularly rewarding because it demonstrates not only our alumni’s success in their lives and careers, but also their dedication to mentoring current students,” said Jepson School Dean Sandra J. Peart.

Many of the students who attended the Jepson EDGE Institute will put the lessons they learned into practice as they prepare for and complete their Jepson Internship over the summer.