New Orfalea Students Connect with First Year Mentors

This fall, more than 850 freshmen students joined the Orfalea College of Business with the help of a brand new resource: the First Year Mentor program. The goal is to match each new student with an upperclassman to help ease their transition into college by integrating academic and social opportunities and building community at Cal Poly.

The mentors and mentees met for the first time during Orfalea’s WOW Academic Day on O’Neill Green. Mentor Elvis Nguyen describes his perspective on the program:

“Meeting my mentees felt a lot like meeting my WOWies. It was truly humbling to see genuine curiosity and the desire to learn among them. As a mentor, I hope to see where that curiosity will take them throughout the year. This quarter, I hope to get all my mentees fully adjusted to the quarter system, have a strong familiarity in planning their schedules, and most importantly feel proud to be a part of the Orfalea College of Business.”

More than 200 continuing students volunteered to be mentors. They participated in specialized training during spring quarter as well as Orfalea’s Student Leadership Retreat in September.

The First Year Mentoring Program is coordinated through Orfalea Student Services and is part of a spectrum of resources to support students inside and outside the classroom. The college also offers the Peer Mentoring Program for students of all grade levels, the Young Alumni Mentoring Program with recent graduates, and the Executive Partners Program that connects upperclassmen students with executive mentors as they make the transition to their profession.

Nguyen, who has experience in multiple programs, sees the benefits of the full-spectrum mentorship experience:

“So far, my experience as a mentor has been great. I was a mentee for Orfalea’s Peer Mentor Program as a freshman and am starting out as a new mentee for their Young Alumni Mentor program this quarter. It’s interesting to have the perspective of both the mentor and mentee. In a way, it’s like I’ve gone full circle.”

For more information, visit

Orfalea College of Business Students Explore Spain and Morocco

Cal Poly Students in Morocco

Cal Poly’s latest Orfalea International Business Tour took 16 students to Spain and Morocco June 15-27 for an in-depth look at businesses and culture in the region. Marketing faculty member Lisa Simon and Assistant Director of Support Programs & Services Katelyn O’Brien led the cohort as it explored the cities of Casablanca, Marrakech and Barcelona.

The tour adopted the focus of “So Close, Yet So Far: Exploring the contrasting effects of business in Morocco & Spain,” which allowed students to meet experienced leaders in a variety of business sectors, learn about entrepreneurial networks, and survey the economic landscape and industry practices of different regions. Emerging markets and cornerstone industries include tourism, electronics, industrial manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, telecommunications, textile industries, food and beverage, and automotive industries.

Students on a business visit in Morocco

The adventure began with a city tour of Casablanca to take in the city’s culture, food, architecture and Islamic customs. Students also met with business leaders at Pernod Ricard and Imperial Tobacco in Casablanca to explore business development strategies for global brands rooted in Morocco.

In Marrakech, the group explored the city’s winding markets and learned about trends in the hospitality and tourism industries at the Mandarin Oriental resort. The experience made a big impact on students exploring an Islamic culture for the first time.

“This trip was my first time visiting a Muslim country and it was eye-opening to see the reality of what that means and broke down a few generalizations and thoughts I had before the trip,” said student Sam Jones. “The trip made me a more global and culturally aware citizen and made me realize that I can take my career anywhere.”

“It was a pleasure getting to see an Islamic culture that was welcoming and opening and helped shed light on the overly aggressive stigma that is spread towards Muslims,” added Connor Jordan, a fellow student on the tour. “Getting to learn more about the governmental structure and how the international businesses operate within the culture of Morocco was eye-opening and will be carried forward in my future international endeavors, whatever those end up being!”

Student on a camel in Morocco

Once in Barcelona, students met with executives at MediaCom Barcelona to assess effective data-driven marketing strategies in the Spanish market. While at Privalia, an online retailer of fashion and lifestyle products, students also spoke with Chief Product Officer Kiran Thomas and gained insights into e-commerce operations in regional and global markets.

“The business visit with Privalia combined with the city visit of Barcelona really made me believe that I could live and work abroad. Supply chain is something that can and has to be done everywhere in the world and this trip opened my eyes to that,” added Sam Jones.

The final business visit took students to #HomelessEntrepreneur, which empowers struggling adults to start their own business ventures. The group met with President and Founder Andrew Funk to discuss the organization’s mission and vision. Several entrepreneurs shared their stories and business plans with the group as well.

A key feature of the tour was the opportunity to contrast business in northern Africa and western Europe. Students enjoyed an interactive, up-close look at professional life in these dynamic and diverse environments.

Students take a city tour in Spain

“This was my first time traveling out of the country, and, after being home for less than two weeks, I already want to go back and explore new places,” said student Kayla Wells. “I also now want to do an internship abroad after talking the meeting with Privalia and his amazing international experience. After meeting people from so many different countries who spoke English so well, it has inspired me to make it a goal to learn two more languages.”

“Getting to meet new people, trying different foods, and sharing memories with all of the students on trip was a blast. Experiencing Spain has pushed me even more to travel and to heavily consider an international career,” added Connor Jordan.

Orfalea International Business Tours have become a major part of the college’s career readiness initiatives, which aims to prepare professionals to lead in a global economy. The tours empower as many students as possible to have an international experience before graduation. Other tours have ventured to New Zealand, Cuba, China, Vietnam, Germany and Brazil.

The program was made possible through Orfalea Travel Grants that provided each student $1,000 to offset travel and lodging costs. Travel grants are made possible thanks to generous donor support to the Orfalea College of Business and its Dean’s Excellence Fund. For more information on supporting a future Orfalea International Business Tour, visit

FMA Bolsters Membership, Professional Development Opportunities

Cal Poly finance students tour investment banks in Los AngelesThe Financial Management Association (FMA) club is making major strides in becoming Cal Poly’s leading student-run organization for finance. The club has seen tremendous growth over the past year, adding more than 50 students for a total of 113 members. Club President Jackson Kuhn also notes the increased membership has allowed the club to raise five times more funds than it ever has before. The financial resources have allowed FMA to expand programs, sponsor teams competing in case competitions, and host more social and philanthropic events.

In October, club hosted its first ever Futures in Finance Career Fair, bringing together more than 300 students with 22 top employers such as Wells Fargo, Adobe, Yahoo, Cisco and the Big Four accounting firms. The day culminated with a candid keynote address from former Apple CFO and Cal Poly Foundation Board Vice Chairman Peter Oppenheimer. Students asked Oppenheimer about the industry, leading companies through uncertain times, and the value of graduate degrees.

Peter Oppenheimer speaks at Futures in Finance Day“It’s always a lot of fun to come back to campus and interact with the students,” said Oppenheimer, a Cal Poly agribusiness alumnus, after the event. “They are all so energetic and are really smart. They keep you on your toes.”

With help from Dean’s Excellence Fund, FMA is also able to strengthen its industry connections through quarterly industry tours of major financial firms. Kicking off in November, students explored the roles of finance professionals from Los Angeles firms One Capital, PIMCO, HFF and Capital Group, discussing industry trends and insights for future success. The group also toured Bay Area investment banking and venture capital firms during winter quarter, including Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse, Greenhill & Co. and Hercules Technology Growth Capital.

FMA continues its growth into winter quarter with even more professional development tools and events. The club hosted its first Money Talks Finance Forum in February, featuring three keynote speakers and five breakout sessions on investment banking, private equity, hedge funds, institutional real estate, and management consulting. The speakers included a full slate of Cal Poly alumni coming back to campus to share their expertise with students and faculty.

To stay up to date with FMA and learn more about the club, visit their website at

Alumni Support Brings Training the Street Workshop to Cal Poly

Students attend the Training the Street workshop at Cal Poly

Each year, Cal Poly finance alumni and industry partners give thousands of dollars back to the Finance Area to ensure students continue Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing tradition. Individual contributions and matched gifts have supported the college’s unique capstone courses and student opportunities.

In 2015, a gift from alumnus Tom Alderman, vice president of semiconductor investment banking at Credit Suisse brought industry expertise to campus through the Training the Street workshop in October 2015. This course, which usually trains financial analysts on Wall Street at JP Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, broadened horizons and bolstered resumes for dozens of seniors interested in careers in investment banking. The event went hand-in-hand with our first ever Futures in Finance Career Fair, where dozens of top employers recruited Cal Poly’s most talented finance students.

Immersive opportunities such as the Training the Street workshop and industry tours further the college’s goal of career readiness among its 2,700 students. The Finance Area aims to host another workshop for seniors on May 21 and in the fall of 2016 through the support of alumni and industry partners invested in student success. To give back to the area, visit Cal Poly’s secure giving website or contact the Orfalea College of Business at 805-756-7446.

A Q&A with Chelsea Kidwell

Advisor Chelsea Kidwell with a studentCareer Readiness Advisor Chelsea Kidwell joined the Orfalea College of Business in the summer of 2015 as part of the college’s major initiatives to bolster career resources specific to business students. Over the past few months, she’s partnered with Orfalea Student Services, Cal Poly’s Career Services and major recruiters who hire Orfalea students to support students facing a demanding hiring process. Listen to her unique perspective on students today and how the college is evolving to help each student feel truly career ready.

Q: Since you joined the college this summer, what have you noticed about Orfalea College of Business students?
A: Orfalea students are quick learners, hardworking and driven. Recruiters are always impressed by their “can do” attitudes and their ability to dive in and do the job. Our students are truly open to learning and want to make a positive impact on the company they are working for. I think that’s what makes recruiters so excited to hire from our college.

Q: Dean Scott Dawson has made career readiness a major priority in the college. What does career readiness mean to you?
A: I define career readiness as acquiring applicable skills and experiences during college that will propel you into your career, and honing the ability to effectively communicate the value those experiences in both written and verbal formats. That could include leadership roles, internships and work experience. Recruiters always tell me that if a student can clearly articulate their skills and experience — if they can actually talk to someone — they are more likely to get hired. Once a student has that down, they will be ready to embark on their career.

Q: What new resources is Orfalea offering students to prepare them for the transition?
A: In fall 2015, we launched a new, interactive course called BUS 206: Business Professionalism and Career Readiness I, which focuses on topics such as resume building, interviewing, networking skills and career exploration. It provides a space for students to practice skills needed in the hiring process and gather feedback. In 2016, we will be introducing BUS 306: Business Professionalism and Career Readiness II, which will dive even further into career advancement and industry exploration. These classes were designed to help students secure internship opportunities and confidently transition into their careers.

Q: What one piece of advice would you give to a student preparing for the workforce?
A: Use this time at Cal Poly to intentionally build out your resume. Gain experience in areas where you might be less confident by joining a club, sitting on a committee, taking on multiple internships, and making a positive impact in your community. You want to show an employer that you are well-rounded and can balance your school work with extracurricular activities. Put yourself out there — use every resource and networking opportunity on and off campus to communicate your goals and develop connections that could help you meet your career goals.

Q: What big challenges are students facing in the hiring process today?
A: Today’s hiring process is extremely competitive, and recruiting at Cal Poly is no different. As such, it’s no longer enough to be exceptionally bright and driven. Students have to figure out what their unique strengths are in order to sell themselves in interviews and at networking events. This might not be the most intuitive thing for students, but I think it’s one of the key components that leads to a student’s ultimate success in a highly competitive market.

Q: How is the Orfalea College of Business adapting for the hiring process underclassmen will face in years to come?
A: We have quite a few things in the works. Some of our bigger projects include creating more opportunities for employers to get face time with students directly through the college. We feel that this is beneficial to our employers as well as to our students. We are also beginning to bolster our career and internship web resources to better serve students, employers and alumni. The goal is to add additional layers of programming and support so that all students have intentional training in this area. We want career readiness to be an essential part of their college experience from day one at Cal Poly so that they are ultimately successful in their careers.

To contact Chelsea regarding recruiting at Cal Poly or supporting students’ career readiness, email