Do you ever wonder, what did my professors do before coming to UVM? The first day of class it’s highly likely they will introduce themselves, but rarely share the details of how they ended up at UVM, what they did for the many years prior to teaching and why they love doing what they do. Recently, the student led Women in Business club, sat down with three Grossman School of Business professors to learn about their path to academia; journeys full of mentors, research, and unexpected turns.
In pre-covid times the Grossman School of Business clubs would typically take networking trips to Boston or New York City, attend conferences and host alumni guest speakers on campus. Obviously due to travel limitations, social distancing guidelines and restrictions, our students have to be creative. The Women in Business club knows how essential it is for this club to exist. “In some upper level business courses there is a chance you could be the only female in the room, and I know that this could be the case once I enter the finance world” says president of the club and Grossman senior Emma Rainard. Currently the Grossman School of Business gender mix comprises around 60% male and 40% female.
“We must support each other” says Joanne Pencak, Grossman School of Business lecturer, faculty club advisor and recent panelist for the Women in Business club. The Women in Business club executive team has been working together all summer to plan for the semester, being sure to create activities that allow University of Vermont ‘at home’ students to participate and continue to be a part of the Grossman community. The Women in Business club kicked off the year with a general meeting where members were prompted to bring questions. Sophomore student Madison Golabek asked “what’s the difference between business casual and business professional?” she looks to the upperclass(wo)men of Grossman to help provide clarification. Later this semester they will be hosting a workshop specifically around this topic.
To kick off the first guest speaker’s series the club held a virtual Women of Grossman panel discussion with professor Rocki-Lee DeWitt, lecturer Joanne Pencak, and director of undergraduate programs and marketing senior lecturer Amy Tomas. Over 50 students attended and learned about the intriguing pasts and unexpected turns that it took to end up where they are today. “I was meant to be a pharmacist – I loved the pharmacy I was working at and was so very sure this was the path I was expected to take. After starting out my undergrad on this path I realized I was crap at science. A mentor helped me discover that what I really liked about working at the pharmacy was all the business aspects” said Amy Thomas. “Once I took an intro to marketing class, I was hooked, and I never wanted to study, research, or teach anything else.”
The teachers spoke openly to students, providing advice for how best to manage college during a pandemic and just life tips about being a woman in the business field. President Emma Rainard moderated the panel, each panelist had the opportunity to answer the following questions.
What is one piece of advice you would give to Woman in Business at our age? Do you have specific advice for our first-year students, especially as they manage the challenges of starting college during a pandemic, and how do you handle negotiations for our students looking to graduate soon and enter the workforce?
In response to do you have specific advice to our first-year students Joanne Pencak responded by saying “You showed up, you are here, now stick with it, have some tenacity. Thank you for your efforts and your resilience, it surly hasn’t been easy for us either. We can’t wait to teach in person again someday and know that things are going to get better, have a little bit of faith.” The other panelists echo her response and Thomas adds “Thank you, we understand it’s weird when we say, ‘reach out’, you’ve never met us, we are wearing masks. We are learning to do things differently; we are learning to appreciate our connections.”
In response to one piece of advice you would give to Women in Business at our age. Rocki-Lee DeWitt says “Be clear about what you want out of life, and don’t settle. Be sure to surround yourself with experienced individuals who you respect and trust.”
Amy Tomas realizes “I’m not much of a reflector so I appreciate this question, if I had to pick one thing, I would say be brave, be careful, do your research and always listen to your intuition.” Amy goes on to say “Do stuff like this, chat with people, stay connected on LinkedIn, make friends with people. You never know who you are going to need in your circle of life.”
Joanne adds to this by saying “Never say never, and keep an open mind.” While reflecting back she continues with “I wasn’t going to study business, I was never going to have kids, I was never going to be a teacher…well here we are and I’ve done all of these things.”
Rocki-Lee DeWitt ties it all together by saying “I love business, the three of us will give you something to love about business."
While the challenges of being a woman in business remain, (in 2020 only 37 of Fortune 500 companies have female CEO’s) there are plenty of glass ceilings still to be broken, the Women in Business club helps and supports female students to find their own business career paths. They can help you too. Join them at https://www.flow.page/uvmwib