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Exploring the possibilities of business

By Lucy Casale '13
October 11, 2012

Chong Vang '13 (left) and Gabriella Keller '14 are among the students already registered to attend Ole Biz. "I want to expand my network, hear firsthand experiences, and finalize whether business is a path that I hope to pursue," Vang says. Photo by Carina Lofgren '16

At the end of October, 100 St. Olaf College students interested in exploring careers in business will have the opportunity to connect with 100 alumni established in the field.

The event, dubbed Ole Biz, will be held October 30 at the Minneapolis Club in downtown Minneapolis. It will enable students to meet and mingle with alumni working for a myriad of companies, including General Mills, Target, 3M, Cargill, Medtronic, and Best Buy, as well as alumni working on the business side of nonprofit organizations.

While supported by the St. Olaf College Piper Center for Vocation and Career, the inaugural Ole Biz event was developed by a steering committee of 30 alumni working in various sectors of the business world. "Oles love to help other Oles," says Kirsten Cahoon '98, senior associate director of career education and coaching in the Piper Center.

Following opening remarks by President David R. Anderson '74, Ole Biz will include time for students and alumni to chat before hearing from "pop-up panelists." Each of these 10 panelists will "pop up" from where they are in the room to speak for several minutes about their life in business.

Piper Center Director Branden Grimmett '03

The concept of Ole Biz was modeled after Ole Law — a similar event started two years ago by Lynn Anderson '75 and Thomas Nelson '69. Ole Law (which will take place again this April) connects students interested in a career in law with alumni in the field.

Piper Center Director Branden Grimmett '03 says Ole Biz is not limited to students with a pre-determined interest in business. In fact, he encourages students from other disciplines to attend.

"Don't close a door that hasn't been opened to you," Grimmett says to Oles who might not be considering a career in business — yet. "Ole Biz is a chance for students to broaden their perspectives on what business is. We're looking for students beyond the economics and management studies majors; We're looking for folks in arts, in humanities."

He notes that of the 10 Ole Biz panelists, few come from traditional business backgrounds. The group includes an English major, a French major, a sociology and German major, and a political science major, among others. Any student can come to Ole Biz and join in the conversation, Grimmett says, because that's what the night is all about — conversation. "It's building connections, it's learning, and it's educational," he adds.

Although event registration is open until October 22, students are already signing up. Chong Vang '13 and Gabriella Keller '14 are among those already registered.

Vang, a political science and Asian studies major with a Chinese studies concentration, says he is on the fence about pursuing a career in business after college. "This is why I want to participate in Ole Biz, because I want to expand my network, hear firsthand experiences, and finalize whether business is a path that I hope to pursue," he says.

Keller, an economics and Asian studies major with a finance emphasis, says she is looking forward to meeting alumni from companies both large and small. "I am not completely sure what type of business I would like to go into, so Ole Biz will be an opportunity to hear about a variety of businesses," she says.

In the spirit of alumni generosity pervading the event, Beth Verdoes Opperman '93, a senior vice president at Wells Fargo, is providing the venue and food. Greg Buck '77, president of Productivity, Inc., is arranging free bus transportation for students.

The event is free and open to current St. Olaf College students and alumni. Register online.

Contact Kari VanDerVeen at 507-786-3970 or