Diversity, professionalism, and success are the core values of Business ACUMEN, a new registered student organization (RSO) in the College of Business.
“Acumen itself is a word that means business skillset, but it also doubles as an acronym. Business ACUMEN is the Business Association for Cultural Unity, Mentorship, Education and Networking,” explained sophomore international business major Joi Strickland, who serves as the RSO president. “ACUMEN aims to support students that are in the COB. We aim to build community, and we aim to provide resources as well. More so we aim to build professional development that will prepare students for those resources. We’re welcoming, and we are excited to get to know students in the COB who would like to join us.
The group hosts Zoom meetings at 7 p.m. on Tuesdays, and freshman marketing major Nathaniel Nepomuceno described the online gatherings as an opportunity to learn from a talented group of students from diverse backgrounds.
“Even though this is the first semester in a relatively new organization and a small organization, I’ve met a lot of unique individuals who have really inspired me to really broaden my worldview,” said Nepomuceno, the ACUMEN assistant vice president of marketing. “Our main focus is to create a community of really diverse and hardworking and ambitious individuals and then give them the resources to really succeed professionally and also develop a culture that lifts each other up.”
Freshman business administration major Areli Ramos came across information about the new group before the semester while conducting research started about ways to get involved at Illinois State University.
Speaking of the value of on-campus involvement in RSOs, she observed, “I think it’s important. You meet a lot of friends. You get experiences being a leader, being a team player … You learn about interacting with other people.”
Now, Ramos serves as the assistant vice president of communication for the new RSO. She describes the people in Business ACUMEN as “very welcoming” and “good to work with also.”
“They really care about students, and they’re trying to better everyone in the areas they want to be bettered in,” she added.
The idea for Business ACUMEN came about last school year as the COB staff held discussions about ways to show more support for students of color.
“Out of the brainstorming, one thing that came to us was the idea to create an RSO, one that was open to all students of color of all majors,” recalled Strickland. “We put together an action team of students who were willing to put their time into the organization and we began working on it in the spring semester.”
Business ACUMEN was originally set to launch last spring, but the start date was moved back to this fall because of COVID-19. Under the leadership of its executive board, the group hit the ground running this semester with a variety of events, including hosting a Better Money Habits training with Merrill Lynch, participating in an Alpha Kappa Psi Microsoft event and facilitating discussions on such topics as goal setting and improving students’ LinkedIn presence.
“We focus on not only professional development but how could we better ourselves as people and become better business leaders and better friends and better brothers and sisters and better people in general as well,” said Nepomuceno.
He then added that one of the “stand out things” the RSO does is host a series called Corporate in Color. This guest speaker program invites business executives of color from such companies as Ernst & Young, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), USAA, and the Chicago Bulls to talk with Redbirds about “their journey toward success,” Strickland explained.
Looking to the future, the RSO president hopes ACUMEN will serve as a resource for professional development and will help build community within the COB. Furthermore, she sees it as a conduit that will “bridge the gap between corporations and students and allow students to feel comfortable pursuing things that they’re aiming for.”
Nepomuceno encourages his peers to join the fledgling RSO, noting it is an opportunity to leave a legacy that will impact Redbirds for years to come.
“With it being a new organization, this is the time to get involved, and this is definitely the time to really leave your mark,” he said. “We’re building something here, and while we are focusing on short term (goals) like what’s happening next week or what’s happening next month, our main goal is to build a foundation so that other people way past after we graduate and after we leave, they can find this organization and bring themselves to it and get the most out of it as they can. And if you want to be a part of that, of shaping Business ACUMEN and in turn shaping the people who come through Business ACUMEN, then this is the place to be.”