By Katie Smith
When Macy Halverson first arrived at USD, she was just looking for a way to get involved at her new school.
A varsity athlete in her high school years, Halverson was used to being busy. So when she heard about a student organization for business students in one of her freshman-level classes, she decided to attend a meeting.
Now a 21-year-old eagerly anticipating the start of her senior year this fall, Halverson is a marketing and operational analytics double major who has experienced firsthand the benefits of being part of the Beacom School of Business.
A regular honoree on the Princeton Review’s list of the best business schools in the country, Beacom is one of the largest colleges at the University of South Dakota, offering 10 undergraduate business majors, three graduate degree programs and four certificate programs.
The college’s graduates are also well- known for leaping into their chosen field at a time when many students struggle to find solid employment: More than 98 percent of Beacom alumni are placed in business-related careers or advanced degree programs within six months of graduating.
So what makes Beacom students so successful? For those like Halverson, it’s the many opportunities the school offers.
Her freshman year, Halverson joined Coyote Capital Management, a student-run organization that allows budding business people to manage a $2 million portfolio of real money and teaches them to invest it wisely.
“It makes them very competitive (in the business world),” said Klaus Beckmann, Ph.D., an assistant professor of finance at Beacom.
Another popular business student organization that Halverson is part of is USD’s chapter of the American Marketing Association, or AMA. As part of AMA, students compete with other universities in presenting the best marketing case study. This year, their task was to retool the brand identity of the Wall Street Journal, transforming it into a newspaper for the modern world. USD received an honorable mention for its submission
Being involved in AMA helps students visualize what it would be like to work in the marketing held, Halverson says.
“It’s giving you real-life practice,” she said. “It’s a really good indicator of what you’d be doing as a career.
Aside from practicing their craft with like minds, Beacom students also get to practice it outside the walls of their classrooms. Nicholas Page, a graduate student pursuing a Master of Professional Accountancy who also completed his undergraduate accounting degree at Beacom, had the opportunity to travel to the Global Asset Management Education (G.A.M.E.) Forum in New York City this spring.
Each year at the G.A.M.E. Forum, students participate in workshops and hear from speakers well-versed in the industry. The forum also allows students to meet representatives from more than 100 companies and discuss future job opportunities.
During his time at Beacom, Page has also traveled to Chicago with the Financial Management Association (FMA) to meet with alumni. He also participated in a Global Immersion Program trip to Hong Kong and Shenzhen, China, an experience he called “incredibly eye-opening.”
“I was given the privilege to view the world through different lenses and see how I could make a difference, no matter how small or large,” Page said.
Page spoke about how his time at Beacom has allowed him to step outside of his comfort zone, which he deemed necessary for being successful in the business world.
“I believe if you want to make an impact in this world you have to get comfortable being uncomfortable,” he said. “ The more you practice getting out of your comfort zone, the easier it will become, and hopefully that transfers over to taking on difficult problems.”
But students don’t even have to leave the Midwest to network with business professionals and explore potential career paths. Beta Alpha Psi (BAP), a national business fraternity, has a USD chapter that takes students on yearly trips to visit accounting firms in Midwest cities such as Minneapolis, Omaha and Kansas City.
This year, BAP members are taking a trip to Rapid City to visit accounting firm Casey Peterson, Ltd., whose founder and namesake is a Beacom School of Business graduate who has worked in accounting since 1977 and operates out of both the Black Hills and Gillette, Wyoming.
Like Peterson, many Beacom alumni generously offer their knowledge and experience to students on the cusp of beginning their careers, said Beta Alpha Psi advisor and accounting faculty Karen Davies, M.P.A.
“They know the value of the networking opportunities,” Davies said. “They spend time with our students in professional meetings where they make presentations on relevant, current industry topics and make themselves available to network and answer student questions.”
Networking with successful alumni is one of the most important tools Beacom students have in their arsenal. Whether students dream of working at Airbnb, Google, Tesla or Deloitte, there is likely a Coyote already there.
“We have alumni in almost every major company that’s out there,” Beckmann said.
In many cases, Beacom’s reputation for producing superior businesspeople works in students’ favor. Top-tier private companies like Goldman Sachs, as well as large government organizations like the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, a bureau of the U.S. Treasury that regulates all national banks, often seek out Beacom’s best and brightest.
“The biggest regulator in the country wants to recruit USD students,” Beckmann said of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. “It’s pretty amazing.”
Another big name seeking out USD students is PREMIER Bankcard, a major credit card company based in Sioux Falls. Miles Beacom — president and CEO of PREMIER Bankcard and the business school’s namesake — spoke about the mutually beneficial partnership between the company and the Beacom School of Business.
"We have alumni in almost every major company that's out there." - Klaus Beckmann, Ph.D., assistant professor of finance at Beacom.
The company hires several student interns each year, many of them from USD, Beacom said. In addition, PREMIER’s senior managers often come down to Vermillion to teach business classes.
“PREMIER Bankcard really appreciates the relationship we have with the business school at the U,” Beacom said. “I enjoy coming down to campus and meeting some of the students.”
As arguably one of the most successful businesspeople in South Dakota, Beacom credits much of his success to his own college experience and emphasized how important it is for students to take advantage of the opportunities they have at USD. He also spoke about how necessary it is for schools to adapt to the fast-moving pace of the world of business.
“The tech is changing so quickly (in business),” Beacom said. “We need to give the students those tools.”
Beacom commended USD for frequently introducing new programs, especially in business analytics, a sector he says is one of the fastest-growing in the industry. He encouraged students to take advantage of those advancements during their time at the Beacom School of Business.
“Do not underestimate the extremely exceptional level of education you’re receiving,” Beacom said. “(You) have the tools to go on to any business and be successful.”
Along with big names like Miles Beacom, students also have the opportunity to meet and learn from people at the top of their field through the Distinguished Speaker Series. In the last year, those speakers included Andrea Thompson, U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, from Washington, D.C., and successful serial entrepreneur in health care software and data analytics, Joel Portice from Nashville, Tennessee.
But networking isn’t the only far-reaching benefit Beacom students experience while in school. Companies value well-rounded students who care about their communities, Davies says, which is why many of the business school’s student clubs and organizations prioritize community service as a key component of what they do.
For example, Beta Alpha Psi raised 2,000 pounds of food for the Vermillion Food Pantry last year and provided 500 books to local elementary schools in Vermillion, Davies said. It has also donated Build-a-Bear toys to emergency services in Vermillion, which give them to children in crisis situations.
“The service events allow the members to see the importance of being involved in their community, something which will be expected as they move into their chosen careers,” Davies said.
Beacom’s Career Success Center is a helpful resource for students looking to land an internship that will prepare them for their dream job. The center drills students in mock interviews, edits their resumes and offers an online internship and job search database exclusively for USD students and alumni.
“We have a four-year career success plan that we introduce to students as soon as they come on campus,” said Mandy Hanson, career services manager. “Guiding them through the process helps with placing students in internships and preparing them for their careers.”
Students like Macy Halverson have experienced the benefits of those internships firsthand. This summer, Halverson interned with Sanford Health’s digital marketing team in Sioux Falls, an experience she says is right up her alley.
“I could see myself doing this for a career,” she said.
But perhaps one of the most important facets of Beacom that helps its students succeed is the tight-knit relationships it encourages with faculty.
Every business faculty member also mentors students, Hanson said, while many faculty and staff also volunteer to attend recruitment days to show new students what kind of experience they could have at Beacom.
“Most students don’t really know what they want to do after graduation,” Hanson said. “The faculty and staff help them decide what is best for them.”
Halverson values the relationships she has built with her professors, especially as she has advanced to more specialized classes.
“They’re always more than happy to sit down to talk to you,” she said. “They want to see you succeed.”
Page agreed, saying that his best advice for prospective students is to seek out Beacom professors who are willing to mentor and push them toward greater things.
“I think Beacom has helped prepare me for the real world by having faculty that hold you accountable for your learning experience and help you,” he said. “I made genuine connections with a number of faculty members that I know will last long after I graduate from USD. For that, I am extremely grateful.”