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Brewton-Parker College senior Marcus Walker (right), a business administration major from Oxford, shows Dr. Ron Melton, Brewton-Parker's Provost, an information systems program in the Jordan Business Building on the Brewton-Parker campus in Mount Vernon. This semester, Walker is working in a student cooperative at Aflac's worldwide headquarters in Columbus with three other students from larger universities. Walker also received a $500 Business Scholarship from MIR, and institutional research company that assesses the Brewton-Parker campus store's sales data, which allows him to carry a full-time load this semester through three independent-study courses plus his cooperative.
BPC business student begins cooperative at Aflac
By Terry Gaston
BPC Public Relations
Brewton-Parker College student Marcus Walker reached a point where academic studies and military experiences provided the preparation that meshed with the needs of an internship opportunity at the Aflac supplemental insurance company in Columbus.
Walker, a military family native who currently lives in Oxford east of Atlanta, is adding even more invaluable work experience this semester that could lead to an employment situation for him.
Walker is one of four students who are spending this semester working in a student cooperative for Aflac, the American Family Life Assurance Company famous for its acronym-quacking duck.
The other students are from Auburn, Columbus State and Kennesaw State universities, and the program’s charter student in the fall was from Georgia Southern University. Their 16-week term began Jan. 9 and ends April 28.
“Marcus has a wealth of hands-on computer knowledge that he gained from experiences in the military and through a career he has focused in the field of information services,” said Dr. Dean Williamson, chairman of Brewton-Parker’s Division of Business. “He has made himself even more valuable by coupling his military and corporate experiences with academic knowledge.”
Walker, 30, is a business administration major with a focus on computer information systems, an option not offered when he attended Brewton-Parker from 1993-96. He left to join the Army for a four-year tour and worked in military intelligence, electronic warfare and intercept repair.
After working as a Department of Defense contractor for two years, Walker returned to Brewton-Parker during the summer 2005 term to continue a degree in information systems.
He proved to be the type of student Aflac was seeking when Gerald Shields, Aflac senior vice president and deputy chief information officer of information technology and a Brewton-Parker trustee, proposed the partnership to Dr. David Smith, BPC’s president, in the spring 2005 semester. The result was a partnership that is benefiting both organizations and Walker.
“Mr. Shields was aware of a blue-chip internship for students from Georgia Tech and Auburn and other much larger institutions, and asked if BPC would like to participate,” Smith said. “He then worked hard in the Aflac offices in Columbus to ensure that we could participate.
“Marcus Walker represents our first intern in this excellent program. We wish him well, and we think that the future is bright for our fine students to be placed in such prestigious internships in some of America’s finest corporations.”
Meetings between Aflac and Brewton-Parker representatives began in May, with the first on the BPC campus. Eric Chand, senior technical recruiter; Phil Kimble, manager of application services resource management; and April Mobley, recruiting administrator, represented Aflac while meeting with Smith and members of the Division of Business.
Williamson said that Dr. Ron Melton, Brewton-Parker’s provost, played a pivotal role in providing support for the Division of Business to pursue the opportunity and through help in ensuring that the college’s academic program in information services met the Aflac cooperative requirements.
“Three Division of Business faculty members – Dr. Dean Williamson, David Kight, and Valerie Kasay – went to Columbus to meet with the Aflac representatives to ensure that the academic program was in line with the required knowledge of those obtaining internships,” Melton said of an August meeting at Aflac’s worldwide headquarters.
“Aflac representatives received a course-by-course description of the objectives of each course offered in information services. Without this meeting, the internship would not have resulted this quickly.”
The Aflac representatives at the August meeting were: Carl Abercrombie, senior manager, account management; Jackie Edmondson, manager, IT resource management; Keith Hoyle, senior architect, software architecture group; Nadine Kiefer, manager, IT information security; Kimble and Shields.
After meeting with the Aflac representatives, the plan was to start the internship in the fall of 2006, Williamson said. However, Kimble called Williamson in October and said that an unexpected internship opportunity had become available and asked if Brewton-Parker had any possible applicants.
Walker sought the opportunity to gain valuable work experience that could enhance career opportunities in the IT field and began the process that led to being selected for work in the Aflac internship.
Walker was one of 10 students from Georgia and Alabama who applied for what Kimble called the winter term. Applicants not chosen were from the University of Georgia, the Georgia Institute of Technology, Georgia State University, Savannah State University and Southern Polytechnic State University.
“We did not look at the school as a criterion,” Kimble said. “Three out of the four students here now have military backgrounds, and we are looking for the best pool for us and also what is best for them.”
“I think Marcus has the right profile because he has taken IT classes and has some IT experience,” Shields said during his visit to the campus for the trustees’ Jan. 19 meeting. “I am really excited and I think he will do really well. It’s an honor for Brewton-Parker to get in there with some big schools.”
Shields said he believes corporations such as Aflac should invest in up-and-coming talent, and that students with smaller-town connections are a good fit for the Fortune 500 company.
“With me being a trustee, what I wanted is the type of students who come to Brewton-Parker to be the type of people I want to come to work at Aflac, because a lot of them come from small towns and Columbus is a small town,” Shields said.
“Someone who is used to being in a smaller town is going to fit into Columbus and really like it. I like someone who has worked their way through college like I did. I went to a Baptist school, so I know the type of people to come to a Christian institution and their work ethic, and the type of skills they would bring.”
Walker not only will be working but will be earning three hours of credit toward his degree. In addition, he is taking three independent-study courses in order to retain his full-time status, so spare time in Columbus during the week will be a luxury.
Such status also allows Walker to utilize a $500 Business Scholarship he received from MIR, an institutional research company that assesses the BPC campus store’s sales data. MIR then pays the store for the data use, and store director Lynn Addison designated those funds this year to the Business Division.
“The best part is I will be getting credit for it, and the college is working with me so I can graduate close on time,” said Walker, whose intentions are to graduate following the spring 2007 semester.
“I will be getting hands-on experience and also reading about it and able to compare both sides of application and theory,” Walker said.
Kimble said that the four interns will be treated like any full-time IT employee and would be on call for such needs beyond the normal workday parameters.
The student cooperative program is a three-semester plan, with this semester’s students returning in September for another 16 weeks and Kimble hopes for a third term during the summer of 2007.
“We assign them appropriate tasks to get real IT work from them,” Kimble said. “Our objective is to look for long-term IT people at Aflac. After three terms, we are going to know them and they will know us. It is a source for long-term IT employees.”
Aflac provides the students with housing during the term, though Walker plans to commute back to Oxford on weekends with his wife, Kelly, and sons Stephen, 4, and Aaron, who turns 2 in February.
“We want to integrate them into the city and we want them to feel comfortable with Aflac,” Kimble said. “We felt good with our first cooperative student (who will return in the summer), and I anticipate the same with this group of four.”
Walker’s initial assignment is in application services in the development/programming area. Other students are assigned to enterprising services, security and hardware.
Kimble said each student will spend several weeks in his assigned area, and then the students will go into a rotation in which they will work two days in other areas and the rest of each week in their primary area.
“They may remain in the same area next term but could be utilized better in another area,” said Kimble, who added that the majority of Aflac’s 5,000-plus employees work at desktop stations.
“I really enjoyed the people there when I went for my interview,” Walker said. “The opportunity is there, and to be able to take advantage of it is a step in the right direction for me.”