KeyBank Symposium student group photo

A powerhouse of future leaders came together at Fisher College of Business to learn 21st-century skills, strategies and best practices that will guide them in their careers as students and young professionals.

For three days in November, students from across the country took part in the 15th Annual KeyBank Leadership and Creativity Undergraduate Minority Student Symposium, which was hosted by Fisher's Office of Diversity and Inclusion Student Services and Corporate and Community Outreach (ODISSCCO).

Thirty-six students from 15 universities competed in case studies and learned key techniques in leadership, the power of creative thinking, new product development, spreadsheet management and analysis, persuasive communication and how to think like an entrepreneur.

In total, six students represented Fisher and Ohio State at the symposium. Third-year finance and Spanish major Austin Smith and third-year communication technology major Brandon Burks reflected on the symposium’s influence on their academic and future professional goals.

What experience were you hoping to gain from the symposium?

Austin Smith
Austin Smith

Austin: I had no idea what to expect from the symposium, so at the least I was hoping to extend my network by meeting students from the other universities. To my surprise the event included a case study competition in which eight teams of three to four students were randomly created. Each group was given less than 24 hours to put together a presentation featuring the group’s analysis and recommendations for Apple.

Brandon: As a first-time participant with case studies, I was hoping to gain experience I could apply to my future as a UX/UI professional. I did not realize how competitive the case studies would be, but the principles I employed in my case study on design thinking and innovation at Apple will help me with future user experience and interface design.

Did the symposium influence your business acumen in any way?

Austin: I was pleasantly surprised with the variety of workshops included in the symposium’s weekend agenda. From financial modeling and statistical analysis to negotiation and leadership, the symposium taught us several different strategies we can use to become more well-rounded business students, and furthermore, leaders.

Brandon: As a non-business major, the symposium made me more aware of how business and business principles are a part of my personal and academic life.

What was your favorite session and why?

Austin: My favorite session was “The Art of Negotiation.” During the session, we were randomly assigned a partner. One partner was tasked with selling a tea set for the highest price possible. The other partner was encouraged to negotiate for the best deal, the lowest price. By the end of the experience, I gained a more thorough understanding of the negotiation process, as well as several tips I could take with me into my next negotiation.

Brandon: My favorite session was also learning about negotiations because it taught me how to be strategic as a buyer and as a seller.

What was the best part of the symposium?

Austin: My favorite part of the symposium was the case study competition. After being assigned to a group of three team members, each group developed a PowerPoint presentation that consolidated its team members’ best pieces of advice for the tech giant Apple. The company was dealing with the loss of their co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs but needed to maintain its competitive position in the smartphone industry. As a result, each team had to recommend a specific course of action.

Fortunately, my team won second place and I earned the “Best Q&A Award” for my efforts during the question-and-answer sessions following our groups two presentations.

What leadership, personal branding or presentation techniques did you learn?

Brandon Burks
Brandon Burks

Austin: Over the course of the case study competition, I realized my presentation style is very lighthearted and engaging. I always seek to find new ways to fascinate my audience with jokes, interesting facts and a demanding presence. I also learned that personal branding isn’t just something you need to worry about in the few weeks after you’ve met a person; instead, it’s a lifelong and dynamic process that requires continuous effort.

Brandon: I learned how to identify my teammates’ strengths and how their strengths would be useful in our presentation, as well as how to apply these principals in future collaborations. Through the process, I learned that I am a patient and creative individual.

How will you apply the strategies you learned at the symposium to your career and personal life?

Austin: During the “Spreadsheet Skills” session I learned Excel shortcuts and tricks I will be able to use during my internship as an investment banker this summer. Additionally, I have already used some of the tips that I learned during the negotiation session when selling tickets for Ohio State events!

Brandon: I learned to pay more attention to what is going on in the business world and how it affects the economy. I also discovered that understanding certain programs such as Excel can help me manage finances more effectively. I plan to be more aware of my spending and earning habits now that I know what resources I can utilize to do so.

What are your future business career plans?

Austin: This summer I am looking forward to interning with the global independent investment banking advisory firm Evercore in New York City as an analyst on their Shareholder, Defense, and Advisory team.

I also hope to invest in my first property before my 21st birthday in March. Post-college, I hope to establish financial freedom for myself and to help others do the same for themselves and their families. The techniques I learned at the symposium will help me in achieving these goals.

Brandon: As of now, I am still interested in pursuing a career in technology, but I discovered through the symposium that the language of business is important no matter what profession you choose because it gives you a better understanding of what is going on in a company, the entire company as a whole and gives you the skills to help a business grow.

What was your biggest business takeaway from the symposium?

Austin: Above all, the panel discussion with the Black entrepreneurs helped me realize that if I put my mind to it, I can do anything…especially since it has already been done by Black individuals before.

KeyBank Symposium:
By the Numbers

  • To date, 664 students representing 94 universities have participated in the event
  • The 2022 event included six HBCUs
  • The 2022 event featured two second-year students, 18 third-year and 16 fourth-year student