Ole Miss students heard from a panel of five successful alumni at the Student Alumni Council’s 14th annual Bridging The Gap conference on Friday.
Bridging The Gap is a forum organized with help from the Ole Miss Alumni Association to “bridge the gap” between current and former Ole Miss students. Through an hour-long Q&A portion and an hour-long networking program, students heard the accomplishments, experiences and advice of some of the university’s impressive graduates.
This year’s panel consisted of five notable alumni across a broad spectrum of career fields.
Erik Fields received his Master of Business Administration from the university and is currently the director for production operation at Nissan USA. Fields is the representative for overall equipment effectiveness for all production systems of the Canton vehicle assembly plant. He encouraged students on Friday to use internships to further their understanding of potential career fields.
“Get out and co-op an internship as much as you can,” Fields said. “You need to understand what field you are about to step into. You may find that something you think you want really badly is actually not what you thought it was at all, and I’ve seen that many times.”
Wells Adams, a broadcast journalism graduate from Nashville, co-hosts the podcast, “Your Favorite Thing with Wells and Brandi,” with Brandi Cyrus. Adams is best known as a contestant on ABC’s reality show “The Bachelorette” and his current bartender role on “Bachelor in Paradise.”
Kailyn Aertker graduated from Ole Miss with a degree in business administration. She has worked for IBM in a variety of sales roles for nearly a decade and is currently a software client leader.
Leon Collins also received a degree in business administration and is the current CEO of MINACT Inc., a Mississippi-based contractor which supports the U.S. Department of Labor’s Job Corps Program. Prior to this role, Collins served 35 years in the U.S. Army and Mississippi National Guard, where he became the first African-American to attain the rank of General in the history of the Mississippi National Guard.
Chip Crunk received a degree in business management and a minor in marketing from the university. He is CEO and president of RJ Young, a Nashville-based office technology provider.
During the Q&A portion of the event, the panel’s advice focused on internships.
Cruck said internships are valuable to students because “you can get so much valuable information, and you will learn so much more than you could from any classwork.”
Another topic many of the panel members agreed on is that the largest change they see on campus today is the growing diversity of the student body.
Collins said “it was very difficult at times to blend in” as an African-American who attended Ole Miss during its early years of integration.
“Over the years, the university has begun to open its doors to all types of people — not just different races, but people from different states and even countries,” Collins said.
Bridging The Gap is a way for students to meet alumni, and serves as a means for integrating the community of Ole Miss patrons, according to Mallie Imbler, president of the Student Alumni Council.
“Alumni have the capability to offer jobs and internship opportunities in every field imaginable,” Imbler said. “By attending events such as these, students have the chance to gain connections and build their network that can benefit their future careers.”