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Najim Center’s Strategist Program Provides Real-World Experience for UTSA | UTSA today | UTSA

“Our program is unique because it is not a simulated project experience. The organizations we partner with implement some of the solutions our students develop during the program,” said Erica Clark, Associate Director of Innovation and Career Advancement at the Najim Center. “We have worked diligently to form partnerships with local businesses who want to give UTSA students a chance to work on real projects in our community.”

The Pearl, a popular dining and shopping destination just north of downtown San Antonio, is one of eight local organizations that partnered with the Najim Center during the spring semester. Students worked with Pearl’s hospitality division, researching effective employee recruitment methods, employee incentive strategies, and innovative technologies to improve guest transactions and employee shift management.

“This program gave me a great opportunity to work with a well-known employer in San Antonio and resolve the issues they were facing,” said Jamal Hasty, a cybersecurity major and Najim Strategist who worked at the Pearl. “My team was made up of other students from a variety of backgrounds, which was great, and each of us brought something unique to the group.”

After successfully piloting the Strategist program with two projects in fall 2021, the Najim Center has increased its lineup of projects to nine for spring 2022. Nearly 40 students completed projects with organizations across the city this semester, including:

Gwendolyn Shepard, a junior studying cybersecurity, worked with a local restaurant, The Good News Burgers. She and her team helped develop a social media and marketing plan to support the restaurant’s expansion to a second location. Strategists created incentive schemes for customers, including a loyalty program, military discounts and lunchtime specials.

“I learned many new business strategies from the restaurant owner, such as how to accurately price and effectively market to your target demographic to increase revenue,” Shepard said. “I’ve owned my own hair salon for 11 years, and the knowledge I gained working as a strategist has helped me improve my own business.”

The Najim Center was established in 2020 by local entrepreneur and philanthropist Harvey E. Najim with a $3 million gift to UTSA. Najim wanted to create a space where students could find resources for career exploration and preparation. He also wanted to help advance the university’s Classroom to Career initiative, which focuses on expanding experiential learning opportunities to ensure students are career-ready after graduation. of the diploma.

UTSA hopes that by 2028, 75% of students will participate in hands-on learning opportunities upon graduation.

“The Strategist program allows students to discover their career potential, build their network, and learn what it takes to lead a successful organization,” said Rachel Fletcher, Senior Associate Director of Experiential Learning for the Najim Center. “These students learn skills like project management and real-time problem solving, and these skills will transfer easily into life after graduation.”

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