While some people might think crooked politicians, mobsters, criminals and corruption when they think of Chicago, I had a similar stereotype of the city that I visited for five days in January—full of cold, full of crime and completely movie-based. I’m talking about Fargo.
During the week of January 23 – 27th, I was visiting the city of Fargo, North Dakota. More specifically, I was a guest of North Dakota State University. My unpleasant stereotype couldn’t disappear quickly enough once I arrived at my destination. In fact, the end of my visit had me forget all about the plot of the movie. The parts of the city that I visited were filled with warm, friendly people who were quick to smile and say, “Hello.”
My interactions were mainly with folks on the NDSU campus, as that was the main purpose of my journey north. While college campuses around the country boast interactive, collaborative conferences, NDSU labeled their big conference Innovation Week ’12. Once a year, they completely dedicate a week to innovation. It’s co-produced by the university and the NDSU Research andDevelopmentPark. The park contains an incubator for small businesses in the form of a 50,000+ square-foot building.
A dear friend whom I know from the Midwest Academy of Management, Associate Dean Tim O. Peterson, Ph.D., had often spoken about college students and classroom presentation. I offered my services to Tim, suggesting that I would like to speak in some of his school’s classes and also to meet the students. He took me up on the offer and gave me two and a half days of intense activity by inviting me to be the Innovation Week keynote speaker.
Of my time in North Dakota, I experienced three things: the first was my part as a judge on the innovative product competition, the second was the impression Dr. Peterson’s students left on me, and third, well, third was everything else. I’ll speak of the students, first.
My second night, I had the pleasure of attending dinner with Dr. Peterson’s Legacy class. In order to participate in this class, a student must be strongly recommended. GPA only weighs in at about ten percent of the criteria for entrance to the program. Other requirements include such things as a nomination, a letter of recommendation and an extensive interview. Sounds a little bit like job interview, huh?
Students in the Legacy Program are taught soft business skills as part of the syllabus. Some even travel to New York to work for a week at a major corporation, with many earning offers to stay with the organization permanently long before graduation. Can you imagine leaving North Dakota for NYC and getting a job offer after only a week with an organization? I had high hopes for my time with this class.
Had I walked in to dinner with these students not knowing the information above, I would have still been impressed based on looks alone. There were about twenty-five students in total. The ladies were dressed in appropriate makeup, dark suits and appropriate hair styles. From double knots to Windsors to half Windsors, every young man had perfectly tied ties completing their professional ensemble. And their table manners matched their dress.
I have always had a soft spot for Millennials. I believe their generation to be intelligent and creative. But some criticize Millennials for lack of professionalism, communication, even laziness. Anyone who has ever criticized this age group would only have to spend five minutes with Dr. Peterson’s students to completely change his or her mind. Our conversation thrived. They asked open-ended questions. They made transformational conversation. Every one of these students is ready for corporateAmerica.
My time with those students was not over after dinner. Can you believe it? They were still hungry for more conversation. We adjourned to a classroom for continued conversation, and discussed the value of ethics and leadership in a business.
Time with theses students gave me the energy and excitement I craved to power through this wonderful week. They gave me hope for the future. And, perhaps most importantly, they gave me a reason to relay good feelings and positivity back to you.
For my next installation, Fargo, Part Two, I’m going to discuss the rest of my in-class experiences with such great professors as Drs. Karen Froelich, Jill Zuber, WooMi Phillips, and Amelia Adora Asperin as well as many of their students.