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Ben Brooks took his experience from VCU’s School of Business to the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. He’s a recent graduate who now works at the Fed as a link between their business and technical entities, helping them work efficiently and effectively.

Ben credits VCU for helping him develop interpersonal skills through things such as the International Consulting Program, and supplying him with a solid business understanding. The opportunities to work with people and learn how to manage have helped Ben build a strong foundation of skills and tools to be successful.

What does creativity in business mean to you?

For me, creativity is looking for a different opportunity that you may not have seen that helps you accomplish your goal. When I first came to VCU, I had several goals. I wanted to develop professionally and socially.

How does VCU’s School of Business help you accomplish those goals?

I thought that the School of Business did a fantastic job of offering a variety of creative approaches to help me achieve my goals. There was the academic enrichment program, where I could meet other students, like myself, who are highly motivated. Another one would be the International Consulting Program.

In what ways did the ICP deliver that professional development you wanted?

I wanted to develop professionally. In my mind, study abroad had always meant that you take some classes in another country, you have a great time, but you never really got professional takeaway from that experience. ICP was 100-percent professional from the beginning.

How did that experience push you outside of your comfort zone?

ICP was a very creative way to not only gain a professional experience, but also to push myself outside of my comfort zone and find that social connection that I was searching for on a very close-knit team. To me, that was a very creative experience. I mean, who would have thought that you could go abroad and develop those kinds of professional skills? That, to me, was very cool.

How does VCU help prepare you for that kind of experience?

The School of Business is very experiential. They give you the foundation you need and the opportunity to put it in action. When you’re learning new things, you don’t always fully appreciate them when you’re in class. But when you’re in an actual project, you suddenly realize, “Oh, I know how to use that concept.” And you can look back and apply those concepts in real life.  

How did the faculty play a role?

I really appreciated my faculty advisers. They weren’t there to do the work for me, but to guide me. So, the faculty was very beneficial. They had experience, professionally and technically, and made me look at something and determine where I should explore things further. They had a hands-on approach on giving guidance, which was very beneficial.

What about the culture at VCU opens you up to new experiences?

VCU is a very diverse community. You have people of all different ages and groups. You’re encouraged, all the time, to interact with people, to gain an understanding of where they came from and who they are. I think that certainly helps me to work with new teams and people from different backgrounds. It makes it much easier because you’re exposed to that all the time at VCU. Diversity is accepted and celebrated.

How has VCU helped change your perception of business?

VCU allows you to do a lot of great work, but I’ve always been an “I can do it myself and get it done right” kind of person. I’ve never fully appreciated the impact that including others in your efforts can have. That’s something I appreciate more. I’m glad that I was in an environment that pushed me to work with people in a very close manner. Now, I recognized that if I really put effort into building relationships with people, and try to work with people, there’s always a positive outcome. That’s something that I always knew, but I really appreciated after coming to VCU.

Any advice for current or future School of Business students?

If you have anything that you want to achieve, go to your adviser, go to your teachers and just have them direct you. College is not a journey that you travel alone. At Virginia Commonwealth University, we are extremely lucky to have very engaged faculty and staff whose job it is to support you in everything that you do. Don’t let yourself get down about having a hard class because there are people who can help you and will help you through it.

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