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BizTalk: Engaging with business leaders remotely

Thursday, June 25th, 2020

In an average semester, there is no shortage of Drake-sponsored events and professional development resources. Following a day of classes, Drake students, faculty, and staff can be found attending an evening lecture, workshop, fine arts performance, athletic event, or trivia night.

So, when classes moved to a remote format for the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester, Dan Connolly, dean of the College of Business and Public Administration (CBPA), knew he and his colleagues needed to redefine how daily campus connections are made.

BizTalk, CBPA’s most prominent lecture series, was the first of many learning opportunities to move online. BizTalk connects students directly to the business world. Each lecture hosts a different business leader within the community and allows students to learn first-hand about various industry trends, business challenges, and career opportunities, while gaining important leadership advice.

“Despite the move to remote courses, our mission hasn’t changed,” said Connolly. “We remain committed to delivering high-quality learning experiences and preparing students for a meaningful, professional career, regardless of the delivery format. We teach students about the need to be agile and adaptive to ever-changing situations. The pandemic not only provided important teaching moments, it also gave us an opportunity to model the way for our students—to adapt and seize an opportunity versus taking a ‘woe as me’ attitude.”

Following Spring Break, Connolly said all of the BizTalk speakers graciously and swiftly moved their lectures to a virtual format and focused on timely, real-world topics.

“Students were more engaged than ever,” said Connolly. “Attendance was actually higher online than most of the in-person lectures. Students were able to listen, learn, and interact on real-time issues that industries were facing as a result of the pandemic.”

Take, for instance, Andy Buchta, Drake alumnus and managing director and investment officer for Wells Fargo Advisors, who spoke about the hit the financial markets were taking and various investment strategies to consider during a difficult economy. Or, Karen Branding, a Drake alumna and senior vice president of public relations for the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, who discussed the role of the Federal Reserve and actions it has been taking to stimulate the economy and preserve jobs. Lastly, Beth Wood, chief marketing officer for Principal Financial Group, discussed the importance of communications during a crisis and communicating effectively. She also shared strategies for creating brand-appropriate messaging for diverse stakeholder groups.

During the lectures, students were able to actively engage with the speakers through polling and chat tools, which Connolly said created rich opportunities for discussion. In addition, he said the online discussion tools encouraged students who might not otherwise speak up in a group setting to do so.

“While we all miss the vibrancy of campus life, I am incredibly proud of the students, faculty, and staff at Drake and how they adapted,” said Connolly. “We shifted our delivery modality without ever missing a beat. Not only did we recreate campus offerings online, in many ways, we enhanced them and extended our reach by leveraging the capabilities of technology.”

Following the BizTalk lectures, Connolly said many students connected with the speakers through email and LinkedIn to continue the conversation—with some even pursuing job opportunities. BizTalk is just one of many ways in which the College of Business and Public Administration brings the business world to the classroom and students to the world of business—all to ground them in real-world practice.

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