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New Forté “Rising Star” Pilot Program Preps Undergrad Women for Business

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Undergraduate women on 10 U.S. campuses can now participate in a fun, free online program designed to help them prepare and compete for top jobs in business-related fields. The new “Rising Star” pilot initiative, announced yesterday by the Forté Foundation, is designed to encourage young women of all majors to start exploring career options early to better position them for jobs in business fields immediately upon graduation. By extension, the new program could also help position women to apply to competitive MBA programs after acquiring requisite work experience.

Schools participating in the “Rising Star” program include Carnegie Mellon University, Cornell University, George Washington University, Indiana University, New York University, Ohio State University, the University of Michigan, the University of Texas at Austin, William & Mary and Yale University. Forté handpicked the participating schools, most of which are in the consortium’s business school membership already, with the goal of including a diversity of schools ranging from large public institutions to small private colleges. “We went to familiar campuses where we have a strong support network for this pilot year, with the intention of expanding as soon as the pilot year is over,” says Forté Executive Director Elissa Sangster.

“The women we have talked to post-college were often behind in terms of their career plans and ambition and preparedness,” says Sangster. “We have found that they felt pressure and were wishing they had started thinking about their careers earlier.”

The “Rising Star” pilot was designed in response, to help women—even those not in a business-related field or major—to explore a range of career options in business. “Liberal arts and engineering students often end up in business careers and MBA programs, and the earlier we can start opening up doors for these women, the better,” Sangster says. The program expands upon the work Forté has been doing for years to provide career advice and networking opportunities for post-college women and women in their final college years.

The web-based “Rising Star” curriculum includes networking advice, resume building and job search support, career guidance, MBA exploration and more. A total of 20 activities make up the program, which Forté suggests the college women should allow at least two semesters to complete. Along the way, participants will accrue points for successful completion of each activity.

Each time a student amasses 100 points, she earns a reward. Rewards range from valuable introductions to the Forté corporate and business school sponsors of the student’s choosing, entry into the Forté full-time jobs or internships resume book, an invitation to a special networking session and application waivers for Forté’s C2B (College to Business) Leadership Conference or its College Fast Track to Finance Conference.

Women who earn the full 500 points possible as part of the program will be christened a “Forté Rising Star”—a designation intended to help them stand out to potential employers, as well as to admissions committees at leading MBA programs. Beyond the resume-enhancing title, winners will also get to choose between having a three-month career prep mentor and lunching with a career influencer.

“We talked a lot about gamification and what the millennial group is accustomed to,” Sangster says in response to how the decision to include a point and reward system came about. “We wanted to make it fun, but we also wanted it to be a challenge for them and make it clear that they were working toward a goal,” she says.

The point and reward system also made it easy to “block and tackle” all of the components of the program, Sangster adds. “We were able to put in place something that we believe to be reasonable and achievable over the course of their time in college,” she says.

Another benefit of the reward system is that it ensures that the young women are prepared to take each step along the way. “Not only is it fun that you get to meet with a Forté corporate or business school sponsor, for example, but you will also have prepared yourself to experience that at the right level.”

The most exciting piece of the new pilot is gaining access to this great group of women and connecting them in turn to the Forté network, Sangster says. Though the bulk of the curriculum is virtual—providing flexibility and ease of access for women to complete it at their own pace—the reward components bring the program to life and participants in contact with their peers and the larger Forté program.

“What we are most interested in is seeing women participate in programming like the Fast Track to Finance Conference or the College to Business Leadership Conference,” Sangster says. Participation in these types of events will help women develop a network they would not normally have had access to that early in college.

After what Sangster hopes and expects to be a successful pilot year, Forté plans to expand the “Rising Star” program to additional college campuses. In time, to augment the virtual components, there will also be program components that take place on participating schools’ campuses, she says.

Learn more about Forté’s new “Rising Star” pilot program for undergraduate women.