Thirty minutes into the leadership class he was teaching for the College of Business, Doug Babb had a revelation.
“That’s me, 45 years ago,” he told himself. “’I’m looking at myself. I can relate to these people.’”
“I realized that these people who were one of the first (in their family) to attend college, that they were working their way through college,” he said on a mild February day. “They were attending their hometown university because it’s what they could afford, and it was accessible, and … they were pretty much putting themselves through school and (had to) balance work, family, education.”
So it was that when Doug Babb and his wife Kathy decided to make a donation to the university, they agreed with Dr. Jim Beard, associate professor of management, that their money should be dedicated to helping students get a job.
About the Doug and Kathy Babb Center for Student Professional Development, Babb said, “I credit Jim with the idea and Ron Orick with taking the concept and making it operational.”
Kathy Babb said she enjoys having the opportunity to meet with students in the program and recent graduates.
“Isn’t it fun to see these students excited and … responsible?” she said. “And they are genuinely interested … even beyond just going to work. … They’re interested in the community.”
The Student Professional Development certificate, developed by Ron Orick, is awarded to students who complete a series of workshops and networking events. The work helps students develop “soft skills” like talking to business executives and dressing for success.
Doug Babb saluted the process of creating the program.
“Ron Orick did everything right here. The very first thing he did once he got the idea and the mission was to involve employers in the community from the outset and hold sessions in which he got their input on what skills they were looking for and the components that might add value. … Ron, brilliantly, got that at the very front end, and that enabled him to design the … certificate program around the specific skills the employers were really looking for.”
Babb said he knows the program is effective because “the employers are saying that the students they meet now are more professional, and they are more willing to offer them employment. And if the employers see value in the program, that’s a home run.”
The program’s 100 percent placement rate “says it all,” Babb said.
He explains there is a two-part plan in action at the university.
First “UAFS really focuses on getting the first-generation people a college degree, and the rest of their life is different,” he said.
“And with this program that was started by our donation (and) was really carried forth by Ron Orick and UAFS, now we can do the second best thing we can do for a young student: helping them to have the skills that will make it much more likely they can land that first job, which is the hardest job you’ll ever get. …
“Allowing first-generation college students to access a local university and then provide a program that gives them the skills they might not have gotten from their family or mentors, to have enough polish to get in the door and get that first job — to me, that’s everything.”