Inaugural Leadership Tour takes business students across Georgia

I n a five-day tour, 10 business students representing six majors applied their education in travels across Georgia, visiting businesses, business leaders and Georgia College alumni in May.

“On the first day, I told students I hoped, through their visits and travels, that they would gain a greater appreciation for the state of Georgia, including its economic and physiographic diversity,” said Jehan El-Jourbagy, assistant professor of business law and engineer of the tour. “Milledgeville to Monticello to Atlanta and beyond, I wanted to show them the love, time and energy citizens put into their communities.”

Milledgeville to Monticello to Atlanta and beyond, I wanted to show them the love, time and energy citizens put into their communities.
– Jehan El-Jourbagy

“From small family businesses to multinational manufacturing, I wanted to give students a behind-the-scenes look at the economic engines of our state.”

El-Jourbagy arranged the tour with J. Whitney Bunting College of Business and Technology (COBT) Outreach Coordinator Kari Brown, and support from GC Journeys and COBT Dean Micheal Stratton. The pair led students to places like the Jasper County Chamber of Commerce, the Georgia Bioscience Training Center at Stanton Springs, Chick-fil-A Support Center and Amicalola Falls State Park. 

From day one, their trip was packed with tours of manufacturing facilities, small businesses, networking events and alumni meetups. At Amicalola Falls State Park in Dawsonville, students hiked five miles to their off-the-grid lodging.

“Students got to see leaders in action and listen to their words of wisdom,” El-Jourbagy said. “They got to meet professionals over meals and walk factory floors with corporate leaders. They practiced their own leadership skills through building connections, entering professional conversations, public speaking and expressing gratitude.”

Colette McCarty, ’22, is a graduate student of accounting and attended the tour. She’s interested in public accounting and will start an internship with certified public accounting firm, Aprio, in June.

During the tour, she shared meals with certified public accountants (CPAs), tax commissioners and bankers. Toward the end of the trip, she got to meet Cal Brantley, partner of Nichols, Cauley & Associates, LLC, an accounting firm. 
Cal Brantley (center) answers questions of those on the leadership tour.
Cal Brantley (center) answers questions of those on the leadership tour.

“I don’t think I’ve had an experience like this,” McCarty said. “It was very transformational, and I can’t compare it to anything else I’ve done. Establishing relationships with people is a really beautiful thing, and it’s great to have connections like that.”

Networking is important for all careers, according to Forbes. The global media company said networking opens channels for idea exchange, creates opportunities and develops self-confidence. 
That’s true for Matthew Fosberry, ’22, a management graduate who attended the tour. 

While touring the YKK Corporation of America (YCA) plant in Macon, former chairman and chief executive officer (CEO), Alex Gregory, took a seat beside Fosberry.

“When you’re in a classroom, you don’t see people like Gregory as people, you see them as legendary,” Fosberry said. “You realize they were people the whole time, and that was very disarming. It brought down the barriers of speaking to people like that and showed me how much social skills were involved in their success.”

The tour went so far as to alter students’ perceptions of their professional future. 

“There’s a lot of growth in Atlanta, but even in small towns like Monticello, there’s still business growth,” McCarty said. “The tour opened my eyes to different industries out there and definitely exceeded my expectations.”

Due to the trip’s success, COB will continue to offer this leadership tour experience to students. 

“The students are some of the most impressive and kind people I’ve ever met, and together they were a fantastic unit,” El-Jourbagy said. “They made Georgia College proud as we traveled across the state. We would definitely like to provide this experience for students every year.”