Watch video of panel discussion

A diverse group of alumni speaking to students in Theories and Models of Leadership classes last week delivered a common message: a degree in leadership studies is flexible. And in today’s work environment, flexibility is key.

They sat in on two classes to discuss the merits of a leadership studies background, answer questions, and discuss practical ways they use the concepts they learned. The panel members included a physician, a major gifts officer, an assistant director of performance management and transformation and green jobs coordinator, an entrepreneur, a corporate business worker, and an assistant director in alumni relations.

Employers, they said, are looking for people who have transferrable skill sets, understand group dynamics, can make critical decisions and handle change, and are willing to be collaborative – all emphasized in the Jepson curriculum.

 “You can take what you’re getting out of the curriculum and sell it in any interview. The great thing about being a leadership studies major is that you can apply for so many different types of jobs in so many different industries and be considered for them,” said Connie Mattox, ’02, who has worked for large multinational corporations, small start-ups, and now owns her own business.

Dean Sandra J. Peart, who sat in on the panel discussions, agreed. "The curriculum is intended to prepare students for any career they choose. Understanding how to lead change and make critical decisions are vital skills in any field."

The alumni emphasized that flexibility is also important in individual jobs.

“Change is a reality of business. The theories of leadership truly help you manage change,” Mattox said. “And you’re going to see that change no matter what career path you choose.”

Maurice Henderson, ’97, who has worked in education, the business world, and politics and advocacy, echoed Mattox. “What you think you might be doing tomorrow might not be the thing you’re doing the week after. The notion of transferrable skill sets and leadership and followership and all these words you hear at the Jepson School are applicable.”

Patrick Oliver, ’98, told students he did consulting for the Department of Defense before deciding to go to medical school. At first, he was worried that he wouldn’t be able to get in. “But they were actually very impressed by the Jepson background because it’s different than a traditional major like biology. The concepts that you learn are what’s important.”

They also encouraged the students to get to know as many people as possible connected to the university and to take advantage of their time here.

In addition they fielded questions on:

-How prospective employers react to their leadership studies background
-Interviewing for jobs
-How what they learned helped them assimilate into new environments

Panelists included:

Maurice Henderson, ’97, Assistant Director for Performance Management & Transformation and D.C. Green Jobs Coordinator. Past positions include working in electoral politics and direct advocacy politics and in education overseas.

Patrick Oliver, ’98, Attending Emergency Room Physician at Memorial Regional Hospital in Richmond. He previously did consulting work for the Department of Defense and local and state government.  

Aaron Lee, ’00, works for a Container Shipping Line in Richmond. Prior jobs include working in small businesses and in the corporate world.

Connie Mattox, ’02, is the owner of a market insights consulting firm and MBA student at the University of Richmond. She has also worked for large multinational corporations and small start-ups.

Kimberly Bowers, ’05, Major Gifts Officer for the School of Law at the University of Richmond. Prior jobs include working as Director of Gubernatorial Appointments for Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine’s administration.

Katie Connolly Bell, ’07, Assistant Director for Regional Initiatives in the University of Richmond’s Office of Alumni Relations. She previously worked with the American Cancer Society.