In Consumer Behavior (Marketing 461), Professor Lan Nguyen Chaplin has high expectations of her students. To communicate these expectations and the level of professionalism required to succeed, Professor Chaplin invited alumni of the course to speak in the opening session of her Fall 2017 classes. “It is a tough class that places a high demand on professionalism in addition to mastering the course content, so I bring in successful former students to talk to incoming students to inspire them,” Professor Chaplin said.
Robert Grilli ’17, Jaime Manriquez ’17, Ryan Patterson ‘16, Samantha Payne ‘18, Allan Rodriguez ‘18, and Kathrynn Sharp ‘17, gathered on the first Tuesday of the semester outside Grant Hall room 205 as the class began and students filtered in. This group of Marketing 461 alumni spent the final weeks of summer preparing the presentation, eager to share their advice and committed to supporting fellow UIC Business students. Not all of them knew each other and none of them live close to each other so all the work was done virtually. While Professor Chaplin started the session inside, they sat in the hall and reflected on their experiences as students in the class.
Grilli credits the class’s tough assignments and Professor Chaplin’s guidance with helping him understand his true potential for success at UIC Business. “When I took Professor Chaplin’s class, she pushed me to a limit I had never been pushed to before academically and professionally,” he remembered.
The group also emphasized that since proving themselves as strong students in Consumer Behavior, Professor Chaplin has served as a generous and invaluable academic and professional mentor for each of them. “Formatting and tightening the language in my resume was a tricky process, but she had so much patience,” said Sharp, reflecting on Professor Chaplin’s support.
After 30 minutes, Professor Chaplin opened the doors and ushered in the alumni speakers before exiting the classroom. She was not present for the conversation between the alumni presenters and the students. “This is to ensure that students can be candid with each other about my course,” Professor Chaplin explained.
The alumni presentation emphasized professionalism and communication. It was delivered in the presentation style taught in Marketing 461 and adopted by students going forward: well-rehearsed without relying on notecards, and using thematic, graphic-heavy PowerPoint slides. They were visibly and audibly passionate about being there to help their fellow UIC Business students.
“Everything you learn in this class you will apply in the real world,” said Patterson. “Honing [presentation] skills in a classroom setting will make it easier when presenting in a professional setting.”
Payne recommended that the students engage fully in the class content and projects. “Immerse yourself in the class from the beginning,” she said, “Professor Chaplin is trying to set you up for your professional career now.”
Describing the challenges of group work throughout the course, Rodriguez focused on communication between teammates and with Professor Chaplin. “Hold each other accountable and hold yourself accountable to your team. Communication is key; when things change you have to let your team know.”
Throughout the discussion, the speakers stressed that the challenging work in the class pays off. Professor Chaplin’s constructive criticisms can set the stage for students’ personal and professional growth, but only if they embrace her feedback.
“Take Professor Chaplin’s critiques seriously and constructively,” Manriquez suggested. “Build upon her suggestions and criticisms to improve your projects and utilize her experiences as a working professional to your advantage.”
The presentation and leadership skills, as well as professional acumen developed in Marketing 461 are now a natural part of their professional, academic, and personal lives.
Ultimately, while the speakers painted a realistic picture of the hard work and mental toughness necessary to thrive in the course, they also left the incoming students with a strong impression of Professor Chaplin’s commitment to her students’ success. “Professor Chaplin will assess your current skill set,” Sharp said, “and then she will push you to refine and gain skills you never thought were possible.”