2019 KeyBank UG symposium group photo

For more than a decade, Fisher College of Business and KeyBank have teamed up to provide high-achieving, diverse undergraduate students from colleges and universities across the country with a unique opportunity to grow as leaders.

The Leadership and Creativity Undergraduate Student Symposium is a transformative, three-day learning experience that hones students’ business acumen and helps prepare them for work-readiness and professional success in business. The experience focused on leadership, creativity, financial modeling, spreadsheet management, the art of negotiation, and building your personal brand, among other topics. It also included a business case competition that pitted eight teams against one another to win a total of $4,400 in cash prizes.

Participants and partners in the 2019 symposium shared their about the event and the impact it has had – and continues to have – on their development as leaders.

Ashley Adams
Ashley Adams,
The University of
Nile Ravenell
Nile Ravenell,
​​​​​​Howard University
Justin Smith
Justin Smith,
The Ohio State
Karen White
Karen White,
Sr. Vice President,

What were your expectations for the symposium?

Nile Ravenell: When I was selected, I was looking forward to heading to Ohio for the first time and competing in my very first case study. As the only student from my university, I wanted to rep my school as well as bond with some of the most-deserving students from all over the country.

Ashley Adams: I did not really know what a case competition entailed, so I was a little nervous about it. However, I was expecting to network with outstanding students, knowledgeable faculty at Fisher and others that were involved in the program. I also was expecting to gain experience in competing in cases.

What were your takeaways from the symposium? 

Justin Smith: The ‘Building Your Personal Brand’ session was so impactful because a lot of people like to conform to the norms of society, especially in the workforce. I enjoyed how the workshop was geared toward individuality, because each person in this world brings something unique to the table. It is important to remain true to oneself and to be able to examine others’ personal qualities to see how they can contribute to the success of a company as well as in everyday life.

Ashley Adams: The ‘Art of Negotiation’ session was one of my top takeaways. This resonated with me the most. I know that in business, negotiation is something that is so important and is a skill that most need to know. During the symposium, I was actually trying to decide between two job offers I had. After the negotiation session, I was able to take what I learned and use it to negotiate a salary at the company I chose. If I had not attended this session, I really do not think I would have had the skills necessary to do this.

Why are events like the symposium important to the future of business? 

Karen White: Engaging KeyBank’s business partners to network with the students, present valuable personal branding tips and techniques, and participate as judges, provides the students with a first-hand experience of Key’s culture. We hope to attract talented individuals to work for Key. The symposium, and other like events, give future employees a strong, positive impression of KeyBank as a potential employer.

Ashley Adams: I think it is so important that companies are recognizing people from diverse backgrounds, because they are giving these students opportunities to develop their careers and be successful, something that can be difficult sometimes in the current workforce.

How has this experience shaped your development as a business student and future leader?

Justin Smith: It has opened my mind and allowed me to be more willing to take risks, especially when thinking outside the box as it pertains to a business solution. The sky is the limit, and if a person or a team is able to come together with a great solution with facts to support it, it’s hard for the solution to be turned down. Additionally, I was able to see the importance of being able to think on my feet quickly. Often business professionals are faced with short deadlines that need a quick solution, and the case competition simulated that. 

Ashley Adams: It has shown me that to be successful, you need to challenge yourself and get out of your comfort zone. I was very nervous for the case competition since I had never competed in one, and honestly thought I would not be able to contribute as much as the rest of my group. It was definitely out of my comfort zone. However, I pushed myself to express my ideas and opinions, and I really ended up enjoying the experience.

How can partnerships between KeyBank, Fisher and The Ohio State University be mutually beneficial for each organization’s stakeholders?  

Karen White: Fisher College of Business and The Ohio State University’s brand, culture, and purpose align with Key’s purpose to help its clients and communities thrive. The symposium is beneficial to Key, the college, and the university in that it elevates the potential to attract talented individuals to our institutions for myriad of opportunities. KeyBank Foundation looks for strong partners with which to work. Strong partners ensure strong programs, which lead to transformational outcomes and measurable impact. Key’s investments in Fisher College of Business and its Office of Diversity and Inclusion Student Services, provides valuable resources for the college to attract and retain a highly-talented student population.

 I enjoyed how the (Building Your Personal Brand) workshop was geared toward individuality, because each person in this world brings something unique to the table.

Justin SmithStudent, Fisher College of Business