"Wouldn't Change My Experience at the CBA for Anything"01/18/2018
President of the Study Abroad Society. Director of Sales for Zips for Haiti Coffee. Officer in Beta Alpha Psi. Member of the College of Business Administration (CBA) Dean’s Team. Member of winning team in the Nationwide Community Bank Case Competition. Reading this list of titles and accomplishments, it’s hard to believe that senior Corporate Financial Management major, Kenan Sprague, was once barely involved on campus.
Unlike some Freshmen, Kenan entered college with both eyes focused on the future, eager to step into a career field. “Honestly, I came into Akron with this mentality that I was going to get in, get out, do my schoolwork, and get a job. I was planning on graduating a year early. In my first year, I concentrated on my studies and worked really hard. I just worked, went to class, and did homework.”
At the end of his second year, Kenan made the decision to break his work-to-class routine when he signed on to spend a semester at Yonsei University at Wonju in South Korea. There he had the opportunity to study and live with students from all over the world while immersing himself in a completely new culture. “I got on a plane and thought, ‘I’m going to a country where I know no one—not a soul.’ And that is weird and it’s hard, but that teaches you more than just about anything.”
Kenan’s academic courses consisted of economics, Korean language, and Korean history, but he found that it was his experiences outside of the classroom that had the most lasting impact. “We had a class that was once a week where we took field trips and had a cultural experience. It really changed my perspective and gave me a lot to reflect on. It taught me a lot about myself, honestly.”
Upon his return to Akron, Kenan began work as an intern in the Corporate Finance Department of Signet Jewelers, where his responsibilities primarily involved processing capital requests and other items that could be used to review returns on investment in capital projects. “I’ve had a chance through this internship to really expand my knowledge—and not just expand it, but apply it on a daily basis, which is great. I’m learning so much. Something we’re working on right now is a project in IT. It’s my job to dig into all these different details to understand what they’re trying to accomplish, where costs are coming from, and why we have to do this instead of some other alternative. Then, we communicate that information to our Director, who in turn is going to make sure that we’re prepared to communicate that project to the Capital Committee.”
While much of his day-to-day work included creating and analyzing spreadsheets in Excel, Kenan quickly discovered that communication skills are vital even in a setting dominated by numbers. “I really thought I’d be crunching numbers all day and I didn’t expect to have to brush up on my writing skills too,” Kenan shared, “but business is as much about communication as it is about solving problems or crunching
numbers. It’s as much about taking an idea and communicating it to the right people in order to achieve something because, if you can’t do that, if you can’t build that narrative, no one’s going to hear about it, no one’s going to do anything. So, my job is as much about helping communicate with other people as it is about creating solutions and crunching numbers.”
Building connections is something Kenan is putting into practice in his life at UA, as well as his work as an intern. In addition to his internship, Kenan is now highly involved throughout campus. “Yeah, I’ve got kind of a laundry list,” Kenan laughingly replied when asked if he was involved in any student organizations. “I help run the coffee side of things for Zips for Haiti. We’re trying to raise $90,000 for a scholarship to sponsor a Haitian student to come study at Akron, and we’re trying to raise money through coffee sales. I’ve fallen into this role where I oversee the way that we’re handling that, trying to expand the sales a bit more.”
Kenan is also involved in the fraternity, Phi Delta Theta; is working towards the second level of the Leadership Designation Program through The Institute for Leadership Advancement; is an officer in Beta Alpha Psi, a student organization for finance, accounting, and information students; and is heading up the Study Abroad Society as its President for the 2017-18 year.
Kenan was also a part of a team of students whose case study took first place in The 2017 Community Bank Case Study Competition. In addition to winning $1,000 scholarships, Kenan and his teammates had the privilege of attending the Community Banking in the 21st Century Research and Policy Conference this month where they presented their winning case study.
As a senior looking back, it is these relational and experiential elements that Kenan points to as the stand-out features in his college career. “To me, what the CBA provides is more than just a good education, because it does that and it’s won a lot of awards for that. But that education is just the foundation on which you build all the other soft skills. You can’t build that without relationships and you can’t build that without meeting top quality people. I’ve met some of my closest friends in the CBA, as well. So, I’m a fan.”
Kenan’s involvement in the Akron community does not end with UA. “I also volunteer on a regular basis with a ministry called South Street Ministries. They work out of South Akron and they help in some of the less affluent communities. During the spring, I volunteer a couple hours a week and help the kids with their homework. This summer, I’ve been helping out with managing their bike shop program. They get donated bikes and give them to kids on an “hours worked” basis. The kids don’t have to pay anything for them, but they have to either work on their own bike and get it ready to ride, or help other kids with theirs. It’s a lot of fun.”
Looking Forward and Looking Back
It seems that all of Kenan’s hard work and focus have paid off. While he is still a semester away from graduation, Kenan has already accepted a job offer from Goodyear. As he prepares to move forward into a new adventure, Kenan reflects on his time at the CBA. “I came to Akron kind of thinking ‘This is my local, average public University. It’s probably not going to be that great.’ I think in the back of my mind I was thinking ‘I wish I could have gone to Ohio State’, but I couldn’t afford it. In the years since, I realized I would rather not go to Fisher [OSU’s school of business]… I wouldn’t change my experience at the CBA for anything.”