Wright School of Business opens office in downtown accelerator

From left, Javon Manning, a business student at Dalton State, with Barry Slaymaker, who is a part-time professor and vice president of Barrett Properties where the accelerator is located.

Dalton State College's C. Lamar and Ann Wright School of Business recently added another way students can gain real-world work experience before graduation. They now have a downtown office in the Dalton Innovation Accelerator.

Students will be able to intern at the accelerator assisting startup businesses for class credit.

"Accelerators are the leading edge for new venture creation today," said Marilyn Helms, dean of the Wright School of Business. "Accelerators have shared office and work spaces and are typically popular starting points for high-tech or service-based businesses. It's ideal for startups because it reduces overhead while businesses work to become established. It follows a trend we're seeing with millennials and Generation Z. These business students want to be their own boss, and they want to support small, local businesses more than large chains.

"Our students will be able to intern in our downtown accelerator and assist in a research role for these startups," she said. "They may be gathering documents and information on the industries and competitors for a business. They may be providing help with establishing a digital presence, such as with social media and a website. They will do legwork for these businesses. This office is a living lab for our students. It's a great experience for them, and it meets the needs of our community."

Students will be required to take several classes before being eligible to apply for the internship. They'll be led by Barry Slaymaker, a part-time business professor and vice president of Barrett Properties, which owns the Landmark Building where the accelerator is located.

"The partnership between Dalton State and the Dalton Innovation Accelerator is one that we see as being mutually beneficial in many facets," Slaymaker said. "For Dalton State, the opportunity for outreach in the entrepreneurial community and the ability to directly connect with future employers will be invaluable. Conversely, the Dalton Innovation Accelerator will benefit from having access to best-in-class faculty to assist with curriculum design and lead business skills workshops.

"Our students will be engaging directly with entrepreneurs; from helping conduct market research, building business cases for their solutions and developing business plans, to designing long-term strategy," he said. "The ongoing presence of DSC students will be an integral part of the DIA success."

This is the second space Dalton State occupies downtown. The Bandy Heritage Center has exhibition space in the Dalton Freight Depot.

"Dalton State has committed as part of its current strategic plan to expanding our presence in downtown Dalton," said Margaret Venable, president of Dalton State. "We recognize the importance of the Dalton community in our own success. The reputation of the Greater Dalton community impacts our own image and ability to attract and retain students and employees. We are proud to engage in the work of the Believe Greater Dalton initiative and the Dalton Innovation Accelerator to provide an important resource for our community."

This hands-on experience gives Wright School of Business students an advantage when searching for their first full-time job in their career paths.

"We're a professional school," Helms said. "We're strongly encouraging internships, networking and how to present yourself as a professional in business. We want our students to have all the advantages."

The Wright School of Business recently reorganized to help better provide students with resources for internships and job placement. Helms has dedicated Professor Jamie Connors, assistant dean, to help students with internships and job placement.

"We're also using area executives to teach several upper-level business classes," Helms said. "It helps students find a place in the workforce, and they're learning from people who are experts in their field."

Slaymaker hosts a series of speakers in his entrepreneurship class. Scheduled to speak this semester are state Rep. Kasey Carpenter, owner of the Oakwood Café and Cherokee Pizza; Ken White of Whitecrest Carpet and White Capital Partners; Craig Hankins of C&H Services; Tom Minor IV, an attorney with the Minor Firm; Joe Song of Kidian, a new business that launched in the Atlanta Tech Village; and Lamar Wright, a philanthropist and business leader for whom the school is named.

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