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How any undergraduate student can gain career-building business experience

Feb 13, 2023
The career-building business experience and connections that comes from Vanderbilt’s Accelerator program

By Rachael Perrotta

Have you ever wanted to get a taste of what business school is actually like? Accelerator Summer Business Immersion is a 3-week, summer certificate program designed to give undergraduates and recent graduates from around the country career-building business experience. The program attracts students from a variety of majors and teaches business fundamentals using a client-centered approach. 

Cherrie Wilkerson, Assistant Dean for Young Professional Programs at Vanderbilt Business, and KJ Lyttle, Program Coordinator for Young Professional Programs at Vanderbilt Business, spoke on the skills and long-lasting connections that come from Accelerator. 

Career exploration

The Accelerator program offers abbreviated courses in marketing, strategy, finance, and operations taught by Vanderbilt faculty. Wilkerson explains that this experience helps students to narrow down their career interests.

“They start to see what they enjoy and what they hate in 3 weeks,” she said.

Wilkerson adds that students are able to further determine their career interests through the program’s client-centered approach.

“It prepares students to think about what future careers would be like,” Wilkerson said. “If they don’t enjoy Accelerator, they’re going to hate consulting.”

Newfound confidence

The Accelerator program gives students a safe environment to learn and grow.

“Students are more willing to go out of their comfort zone and not just do what they’re good at,” Lyttle said. “It’s really low-risk.”

Wilkerson added that the faculty and resources available to students during the program aim to improve their confidence in business and professional settings. 

“Confidence is as important as competence in your career,” Wilkerson said.

Real-world, professional experience

In Vanderbilt’s resource-rich environment, students in the Accelerator program work with real-world clients on actual challenges they are facing.

“Through the projects, they get the tools and skills to learn how to build a presentation, present to clients, and communicate area focuses,” Wilkerson said. “In future interviews, they have a lot to talk about.”

Wilkerson also says that some students attend Accelerator to understand the business aspects of various industries, which range from medicine to law to art.

“They might not have time in their schedule to declare a full business minor and whatnot. But, they understand that anything they go into, they will need to have some knowledge of business fundamentals,” Lyttle said.

Life-long connections

Throughout their 3 weeks at Vanderbilt, students make lasting, personal connections with peers from across the world and Vanderbilt faculty. 

“We spend a lot of time coaching students; we have 3 faculty members who stay with students the whole time and MBA coaches who have graduated and work with students,” Wilkerson said. “It teaches them how to network.”

Students are split into teams for the duration of the program, teaching them how to collaborate effectively and make new friendships. 

“Students stay in touch after the program,” Wilkerson said. “They expand their network beyond their undergraduate school, and they can help each other with jobs, internships, and more.”

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