After Brad O’Neill K’93 graduated from K, he became a successful Silicon Valley entrepreneur. His 2014 K Convocation address brought more than professional advice to current graduates: it inspired him to create and fund a career immersion program for K students.
“Our objective was to open up students minds to the world of high-tech startups, teach networking skills, and open up doors,” said Professor Amy MacMillan, who was involved in the program’s creation.
An informational session about the K to the Bay program and the pilot K to the Big Apple program was held last Tuesday. This marked the second year of the K to the Bay program, which sent four K seniors to Silicon Valley. The three-day trip included eleven interviews with business leaders in high technology as well as an alumni-networking dinner.
MacMillan, along with O’Neill and the CCPD, created the structure of the K to the Bay program as a senior capstone experience. While the program was initially open only to economics and business majors, this year all seniors could apply.
Next month seven sophomores and juniors, interested in finance, economics, or business, will travel to New York City for four nights as the first participants in the K to the Big Apple program. “This program will feature longer, almost exclusively K alumni interviews and in-depth tours of their respective companies,” said Joan Hawxhurst, CCPD Director.
The seniors who returned from K to the Bay praised the program as both an embodiment and an extension of the current K Plan.
“K to the Bay adds depth to the liberal arts experience,” said Brandon Siedlaczek K’16, who participated in the program this year. “Both entrepreneurs and liberal arts students come from similar foundations. To be a successful entrepreneur requires not only a deep understanding of one’s product, but also an expansive knowledge of the markets it serves.”
The program also exemplifies experiential learning by allowing students to have in-depth discussions with business leaders about problem-shooting and brainstorming viable solutions in the industry.
“The experience exposes K students to how failure is an important part of marketing a product,” said Victoria Najacht K’16, a past participant.
“This program presents K students with an intercultural experience through the exploration of different high-tech start-up companies,” said past participant Siga Kisielius, K’16.
“We have a vision and we’ve started to make a road map for future programs,” said Director Joan Hawxhurst.
Hawxhurst and the CCPD have been working to collect student data on other career interests for K students. Anyone interested can email Hawxhurst with proposals for other programs so that the department can be ready when the next expansion opportunity occurs.