Note: This is the first of a two-part series on the role of a business college in developing personal human capital. It looks at the topic from the perspective of a typical college student. Part 2 looks at it through the lens of a working professional.
Human capital is something of a mind-numbing business term, so it’s understandable if college students, even those enrolled in a business college, don’t spend much time talking or thinking about it. But whether you find the term perplexing or powerful, you would do well to invest early and often in your personal human capital.
Humans are people, the flesh and blood types who bring a mind and a soul to an organization. Capital is, well, stuff – mostly accumulated goods, money, or possessions.
Organizational leaders, consultants, and researchers love to talk about human capital and its importance, but who among us wants to be thought of as just another asset or number on a balance sheet?
On the other hand, your knowledge, skills, experiences, and other qualifications – the things that help make you who you really are and provide value to an organization – are incredibly important. And that’s your human capital.
A recent McKinsey study found that human capital represents the largest component of wealth, roughly two-thirds of per capita net worth. The report, which examines the best ways to go about building human capital, concludes that experiences play the largest role. Unfortunately, it focuses mainly on the experiences accumulated during a career. In other words, it assumes that the most valuable experiences come after college.
In reality, work experiences and education overlap, especially for anyone who is serious about making a consistent, lifelong investment in their personal human capital. At the Sam M. Walton College of Business, for instance, there are several ways students can add valuable work experiences to their resume as a part of their pursuit of an academic degree.
Career Services, a department within the Walton College, helps employers find students who are looking for internships and part-time jobs. It provides online and in-person resources on creating and running an internship program, maintains an online job-matching system, Handshake, and regularly hosts career fairs. And the Venture Internship Program, offered through the Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, specifically matches undergraduate students with startups, entrepreneurship support organizations, and investor networks.
Students who work as interns get practical experience and often get paid for their work. The Walton College also offers academic credit to eligible students for degree-related work experience prior to their graduation. In addition to Internship Credit (WCOB 310V), there are specialized programs for accounting (ACCT 310V) and supply chain management (SCMT 3103) majors.
Walton College students have a long history of traveling the world in a quest for experiential learning related to their field of study. This takes place primarily through faculty-led study abroad programs in places like Spain, Italy, Brazil, Chile, China, Ghana, Japan, Ireland, and Mozambique. The University of Arkansas’s Rome Center provides opportunities for internships in several disciplines, including marketing, economics, and general business.
The Global Engagement Office also assists students with international internships, including virtual internships that sprung up because of pandemic-related travel restrictions.
In addition to students going to industry for work experience, several Walton College faculty members partner with industry to include real-world projects in their curriculum.
Rogelio Garcia Contreras, for instance, teaches Social Innovation Strategies (SEVI 4003H), which, he said, “often partners with existing organizations looking to develop, expand or improve their social or environmental impact strategies.” And his Social Entrepreneurship class (SEVI 3673) “invites students to identify a pressing social or environmental challenge affecting our community and develop a viable, sustainable and, if possible, scalable solution to this challenge in the form of a new social venture.” Other students in the class tackle issues for existing organizations.
Anne Velliquette, meanwhile, teaches the Integrated Marketing Communications (MKTG 4233), and her students form “ad agency” teams and work with a different client every semester. At the end of the term, the teams produce a creative brief, a strategic pitch deck, and three deliverables for the client. Then they pitch their ideas to the client.
“The client chooses a winning campaign or campaigns,” she said. “The goal is that the client can implement these ideas right away. It is a win-win for both the client and students.”
Most recently, the teams have worked on projects for the Walton College internal marketing department and on a campaign for Any’tizers, a Tyson Foods product.
These experiences aren’t limited to undergraduate programs. The Walton MBA program includes a global experience and an internship, as well as opportunities to apply what students are learning. Students in Adam Stoverink’s recent business and leadership ethics class (MGMT 5223), for instance, were given $1,000 in seed money and challenged to do “something that makes the world a better place.” One group turned their idea into a company that supports the coffee industry in Haiti and now has its products in 11 Walmart stores.
Several courses, especially in the Department of Information Systems, also allow students to use the most current software tools to tackle projects in areas such as data analytics, often using real data from industry partners such as Dillard’s, Sam’s Club, Tyson Foods, and Walmart.
One of the more unique experiential opportunities offered through the Walton College is the Rebsamen Trust, which allows top-tier finance students to manage a real investment fund that uses real money. The trust, the third oldest of its kind in the nation, was created in 1971 with an initial investment of $100,000. The portfolio now has a market value of more than $1 million, and three additional funds with a value of $5 million are now included in the portfolio management class.
Students, of course, can earn a degree without gaining work or work-related experiences along the way. At the Walton College, however, it would take intentional effort to avoid such experiences. And with the value those experiences offer, why would any student do that?