June 2, 2014

High School Students Glimpse College Life at DREAM BIG Academy

Twenty-seven Nebraska high school students will be given a glimpse into college life at the UNL College of Business Administration’s third annual DREAM BIG (Develop, Risk, Empower, Achieve, Maximize, Build Innovate, Grow) Academy held June 1-5. The academy is designed to teach business, leadership and networking skills to students from across the state and expose them to future careers. It also helps prepare them for the college search.

Of the 66 DREAM BIG Academy graduates who attended the academy in its first two years, 52 applied to UNL. A majority of those admitted majored in business.

“Two years ago, I was considering going out of state before I came to DREAM BIG,” said Kayla Cody, a sophomore business administration major at UNL from Beatrice. “The experience at DREAM BIG led me to choose Nebraska and the College of Business Administration. I couldn’t see myself anywhere else.”

Kayla Cody and Brittany Henry

Kayla Cody (left) learns from former mentor Brittany Henry

This year, Cody is returning to the academy as a mentor. The focus on networking is what clinched her decision to attend UNL and become a mentor.

“The idea of going away to college is intimidating, but from day one, they show you how to network and make friends. You find out you aren’t the only one coming to a big school, and you start meeting people you’re going to be with for the next four years. Immediately after attending, I knew I wanted to be a mentor,” she said.

Steven Sam, a senior management major, will serve as a mentor for the third year. The academy impacted his own academic path.

“The first year I mentored it felt like I was going through it, too,” Sam said. “I hadn’t declared a major yet, so while the high school kids were learning about the different business majors, I was taking it in as well.”

Students spend one day in the classroom learning about business majors from CBA professors. They also participate in a series of team-building activities.

“Right away they put you through an ice breaker activity where students have to talk about themselves. Then we split up in to teams for the obstacle course challenges. We’d have to hop across tiles on the floor to survive the ‘river of fire.’ Activities like that build a lot of camaraderie,” Sam said.

Attendees live in campus residence halls to get a sense of what it is like to be immersed in college life. They also interact with businesses in Lincoln and Omaha. In addition to going on a fact-finding mission to uncover how businesses operate at the Gateway Mall in Lincoln, they spend the final day at ConAgra Foods in Omaha to present what they learned at the DREAM BIG Academy to their families and guests at a graduation ceremony.

“Last year ConAgra Foods merged its former Corporate Explorer Camp, after three successful pilot summer camps, with DREAM BIG,” said Angela Jones, the company's vice president for human resources. “The CEC program caught the eyes of national partners and local universities. It’s a huge honor to have a Big Ten university ask us to merge our program with theirs.”