by Amy K. Lavender

While many students would love to get through college as quickly as possible with two degrees in hand and ready to land a fantastic job in business, few have that opportunity. However, this dream is becoming a reality for Kristin Fox, who decided to take advantage of a program at the University of West Georgia still in its infancy, but already reaping benefits for those enrolled – the Southwire Sustainable Business Honors Program (SSBH).

Kristin FoxThe SSBH Program, a joint venture of Southwire Company, LLC, and UWG’s Richards College of Business, allows students to earn their bachelor’s and master’s degrees in only four years. And in less than a year, Kristin will have achieved exactly that – two degrees in the time it normally takes to earn just one.

Kristin joined the Richards College of Business with the aim of majoring in business management and owning her own dental office, but then her thoughts started to turn toward marketing. It was then she received an email about the SSBH Program inviting her to have lunch with Southwire CEO Stu Thorn, other Southwire employees, and representatives with the Richards College of Business.

“So that was pretty cool,” she said. “We talked to them and they told us we could get our master’s and bachelor’s in four years, […] They talked a lot about community service, and that was something that interested me. And the fact that we got to work with a lot of different people at Southwire made me realize that if this could help me get my foot in the door at a big company or help me get a job after graduation, then I needed to do it.”

Kristin joined the first SSBH cohort, which contains six students. These students are on the same track to graduate, so they attend many of the same classes, work on projects together, and attend internships at Southwire simultaneously, which creates a strong bond among the group.

“The cohort, we’re all very close,” Kristin said. “We’re like brothers and sisters. We work on everything together. I love those guys. I couldn’t tell you how many times we’ve called each other for support over the years.”

According to Kristin, a fast track to two degrees and lifelong friends are just the beginning of the benefits she’s received from the SSBH program. She’s also learned skills, like time management.

“You definitely have to keep your priorities in order,” she said. “I’ve always been organized, but I’ve also always procrastinated. That is my weakness, but this program has helped me with that. It definitely helps you be conscious of your deadlines.”

The unique opportunities the SSBH program provides its students also gives them a glimpse into the corporate world and how a real company functions on a daily basis.

“The program is definitely preparing me for work after graduation,” Kristin said. “In-class work helps, but the fact that we are getting to go outside the classroom is a tremendous help; and, honestly, I've never been in the corporate field, so at first it was a bit of a shock. It definitely opens your eyes to what the workforce is like. It's also helped me with presentations. I have a hard time getting up in front of people and doing presentations because I get really nervous, so the program really helped me overcome that fear.”

Kristin says participating in the program also gave her a once-in-a-lifetime chance to give back to the community, thanks to Southwire’s commitment to sustainability and community involvement.

“When I was interning in Southwire’s corporate communications, I was under Kristen Crow, the project coordinator, and I worked with their non-profit within their company at Project GIFT (Giving Inspiration for Tomorrow) events,” Kristin recalled. “They have a facility in Stockborough, Miss., and they had a tornado last May, and I got to go on the relief trip. I've never seen a community get together and help each other so much. It was amazing! I’m still Facebook friends with the people I met there. To hear and see some of those stories about how their homes were completely demolished but they still stuck together and had that hope … I'll never forget that trip. Ever.”

And then there are the less tangible things, like inner-office relations and building confidence.

“The program really boosted my confidence level,” Kristin said. “I feel like I can go anywhere and do anything and not be scared. I learned way beyond what I could have learned in a classroom alone.”

Overall, Kristin says the SSBH Program is a positive experience that she can easily recommend to other students, especially since it helped her make up her mind about her collegiate journey.

“This is a great program,” she said. “If I hadn't joined, I wouldn't even have thought about an internship. I didn't know which route I wanted to take, what kind of company I wanted to work for, but being able to work for them … it's given me a better idea of what my options are after school.”

To learn more about the Southwire Sustainable Business Honors Program, go online at www.westga.edu/business/ssbh.php or contact the Richards College of Business at 678-839-6467.

Posted on May 19, 2015