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KSI Broadens Students’ Horizons High School students Sanford Brown and Kelly Mayer share experiences from their week at Kogod

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KSI students pose on the AU campus.
Kelly Mayer and fellow KSI students pose on campus with the AU panda.

On a hot and humid Sunday in July, a group of high school students anxiously assemble in Kogod School of Business’ student lounge. Some are seasoned travelers, coming from places as far away as the United Kingdom or China. Others, like Sanford Brown, are more tentative about spending a week away from home with a cohort of strangers.

“Taking this leap was a big step for me,” Brown says. “I usually stick close to home, so coming to AU for an entire week by myself was a completely new experience.”

After Brown and his peers receive their dormitory assignments, they’re off to their rooms to get settled, start getting to know each other, and prepare for the week ahead of them.

Students are here for the Kogod Summer Institute (KSI), a one-week program offered to rising juniors and seniors in high school. Over the course of one week, they will explore what it means to attend business school by listening to guest speakers, visiting different DC companies, and even working on business plans themselves.

The institute isn’t all work, though. Brown says his favorite part of the week was meeting students from different backgrounds--especially those from other countries. "Meeting new people and seeing how they think and live really broadens your horizons," he says. "I still keep in touch with my international friends from the institute. They help me see the world through a different lens."

KSI participants choose from one of two tracks: Business and Sports, or Business and Entertainment. Each path has its own carefully crafted curriculum, immersing students in their chosen fields of study. “Everything the program covered was terrific,” says Kelly Mayer, a Business and Entertainment student from Los Angeles, CA. “I walked away with a solid understanding of the ins and outs of the entertainment industry.”

Business and Entertainment students attend lectures from music, television and film professionals, and explore cultural hubs throughout the district; participants in the sports track enjoy presentations in sports marketing, law, and licensing, and visit locations such as FedEx Field and the Verizon Center.

Brown, who was on the Business and Sports track, learned the most from his visit to Octagon, a global talent agency for athletes located in McLean, Virginia. As an aspiring sports agent, getting a real-life taste for agency life was a pivotal experience for him. “I didn’t know as much about sports as I thought. It turns out being an agent is pretty involved,” he says. “Visiting Octagon gave me a better perspective on the reality of the business, and what I want to do.”

Perhaps KSI's crowning--and most challenging--experience for students, however, was crafting their own, industry-specific business plans. Participants were placed in teams and asked to design a project or product for a company, giving them the chance to integrate the knowledge they acquired throughout the week.

“I really loved working with other people because we could bounce ideas off each other, and refine the final product as a group until it was what we wanted it to be,” says Mayer.

Mayer worked with three of her peers to create a one-hour drama they pitched to a comedy network. In addition to the skit’s creative design, the team also determined product placement, advertising, and made pricing decisions. “It was so much fun working with people from different places that are interested in the same thing as you,” Mayer says.

For Mayer, the greatest take away from the Institute was the confidence she gained in her future – and in herself. She “learned what it really means to attend business school,” and now knows how to “make my future into what I want, not just what I hope.”

“I’m really excited for college now. I was anxious about it before, but after KSI I feel much more at ease,” says Mayer.

Mayer and Brown are planning to apply to Kogod, with ambitions to pursue careers in their respective fields. Both are excited to embark on the next chapter of their lives–whether their future unfolds in DC, or elsewhere. “Nothing’s for sure at this point, but I hope to have the opportunity to attend AU. The week at KSI gave me a taste for what being a Kogod student would be like,” she says. “I loved every minute of it.”