While taking business classes at Hopkins' Montgomery County Center, Rick Seiden sensed that something was missing. He felt disconnected from fellow students at the program's other four campuses, and even at his own campus, there were few opportunities to socialize or share career information.
"I think networking--meeting fellow students, potential employers and alumni--is a key part of the business-education experience," Seiden says. "I was trying to think of a vehicle to promote this sort of thing."
Seiden's solution this fall was to form a new organization called the Johns Hopkins Organization of Business Students (JHOBS). He and the group's other organizers have already put together an ambitious agenda. A holiday party is slated for December, and JHOBS members have begun planning other events such as networking mixers, a field trip to the New York Stock Exchange, a speakers program and a family picnic.
JHOBS is targeting graduate students in the School of Continuing Studies who are enrolled in master's degree and certificate programs in business, information and telecommunication systems, real estate, applied behavioral science and marketing. Drawing together this diverse group is particularly tough, says Seiden, because classes are conducted at five far-flung locations: Homewood, downtown Baltimore, Columbia, Rockville and Washington, D.C.
"Also, people in these programs are usually busy with full-time jobs," acknowledges Seiden, who is president of JHOBS. "Our main challenge is to unite business students."
To overcome the geographic hurdles, the new organization is relying on electronic communication. JHOBS has collected e-mail addresses from Hopkins business students who have expressed interest in the group's activities.
That has provided a way to alert students to programs and events. In addition, the organization has set up a Web site, http://www.jhobs.org/, to publicize its activities and to foster an exchange of ideas among students.
"We think this is an excellent idea," says Elmore Alexander, director of the Division of Business and Management at the School of Continuing Studies. "We're really excited to see a group like this forming."
Some Hopkins business students have job and family commitments that leave them little free time to participate in groups like JHOBS, Alexander says. But, he adds, the organization could thrive even if it attracts only a fraction of the 2,500 students currently enrolled in business courses. So far, more than 500 students have provided their e-mail addresses, and the group's 2-month-old Web site has received more than 1,100 "hits."
School of Continuing Studies administrators have approved the JHOBS constitution and have helped the group get clearance to sell "Johns Hopkins University Business" polo shirts as a fund-raiser. The school is exploring other ways to assist JHOBS, Alexander says, but the group's energy and direction must come from the students themselves.
"There's no way we can provide that for them," Alexander says. "There's no way for a part-time program spread out over five campuses to organize these activities. It's got to come from a group of students who want it."
Alicia C. Saia is such a student. She met Seiden in a finance class last summer and saw his proposal as a way to fill a gap in her education.
"It seemed like nobody was talking together outside the class. There were no real opportunities to network with my fellow students," says Saia, who is now the public relations vice president for JHOBS.
"But let's face it, most of us in the Hopkins business program have full-time jobs. We're people who have a lot to offer, a lot of contacts. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to take advantage of the knowledge that all of us have?"