Students lined up to meet chemist, NFL player, and astronaut Leland Melvin, R’86, after his keynote speech at the 10th annual Q-camp in January.

“The two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you figure out why,” Melvin told the students. “Once you have that purpose it’s easier to fulfill your mission.”

Melvin discussed his journey to the stars with Robins School students at The Westin Hotel for the 10th anniversary of the professional development program during which students learn valuable lessons and skills to be successful at the business school and in internships and careers.

“He never gave up on himself,” said Devika Jhunjhunwala, ’19. “He persevered, and that really stood out to me.”

Before journeying to space in 2008 and 2009, Melvin studied chemistry at the University of Richmond and played for the Richmond Spiders Football team from 1982-85. He shared how his passions drove him to keep going, even in the hardest of times, like while training with NASA, he suffered a severe injury that left him deaf. But over time, he was able to regain partial hearing and continued to serve.

“Leland’s inspirational message reinforced the power of following your dreams, staying positive and surrounding yourself with people who believe in you,” said Shelley Burns, director of career programs at the Robins School of Business.

Melvin shared those challenges with the students, and how important it is to never give up on your dreams.

“We must teach our students early what the real world will be like,” Melvin said, “and how to effectively operate in it with empathy, ethics, and passion.” 

Q-camp is a professional conference for sophomore business students. Created in 2009, Q-camp aims to help students identify their career interests and goals as well as create a job search plan. They attend lectures from professionals like Melvin, as well as Paul Queally, R’86, creator of Q-camp, on topics that range from networking to the basics of communication and self-marketing.

“Students often report that Q-camp is a wake-up call to action,” Burns said. “As a result of attending Q-camp, students better understand that employers hire people for three core reasons: Do I like you? Are you a good fit for our organization, and can you add value? The idea that students can attend an off-campus conference, self-manage their time, and learn professional skills that take time to develop, is critical to both their short and long-term success.”

Students also attended an etiquette dinner, to make sure they are prepared to maintain professionalism in a more casual atmosphere. 

“It's important for students to have soft skills along with the knowledge learned within the classroom at UR,” Jhunjhunwala said. “Q-camp provides a supportive environment for students to get outside their comfort zones and start networking with people, refine career interests, and identify skills required for a successful career.”

Burns recognized that maintaining this conference for ten years is a major accomplishment for the Robins School.

“For the 10th consecutive year, interest in Q-camp is at an all-time high! In addition to hosting 171 students, we had a number of volunteers who attended Q-camp as undergraduate students,” Burns said. “Their return, along with strong support from University faculty, staff, alumni, and corporate partners, helps bridge the gap between the classroom and the world of work.”