You are interviewing for your dream job or internship.

To land it, you have to successfully answer this question about your unique academic background: What is leadership studies?

“If you can explain leadership studies, what you learned that is relevant to an employer and how you can make an impact with your Jepson experience, you can hook them,” says Kate Materna Rezabek, ’02.

Materna, who majored in leadership studies, has plenty of practice answering the question. She put that experience to work this semester in a new program that draws on alumni experience to help students hone their answer – and their communication skills.  

The Jepson Elevator Pitch Program includes workshops, an opportunity for students to write, practice and tape their pitches, and personal feedback from the School’s alumni. 

“There is no right or wrong answer” since alumni pursue a wide variety of career paths and professions and it can be what you make of it, says Rezabek, who worked with Dani Camous, ’13, to develop and lead the program.

When Rezabek learned last spring that students wanted guidance on how to talk to potential employers about leadership studies, she realized she was in a unique place to help thanks to her job with Unboxed Technology.

The Richmond-based company specializes in developing employee training and creative marketing tools, and helping clients deliver key messages. “We put a fun spin on what we do through video-based learning and facilitated training with hands-on practical experiences,” she says.

The company was so supportive of the idea that they agreed to hire Camous as an intern during the summer so the two could partner on the effort.

“I worked with Kate on everything from the design and structure of the workshop to writing the workshop itself,” says Camous, adding that “like other seniors in the midst of application and interview season, it was helpful to think through an elevator pitch.”

Having alumni assist with the program is invaluable, says Kerstin Soderlund, the Jepson School's associate dean for student and external affairs. “They’re truly in a unique position to help students articulate what the degree means since they have been through the program.”

Leadership studies programs have proliferated across the country since the Jepson School opened 20 years ago. Still, some employers have questions.

Like other alumni, Rezabek doesn’t mind when someone asks – it makes her stand out from the crowd.

“It gives me a chance to really talk about what I learned and how it can apply to their field or organization,” she says. “I feel like I have an opportunity to make a lasting impression with the discussion.”