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The business professional development program was started two years ago by Dr. Jim Hamerly, dean of the College of Business Administration. This year is the first year it is required for credit. Photo via Facebook
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Business school launches new program requirement

SAN MARCOS — Business students have a new requirement starting this year at the California State University of San Marcos.

Dr. Jim Hamerly, dean of the College of Business Administration, instituted the business professional development program, which brings soft skills to students. In addition, he recruited 29 C-level executives as mentors and instructors for the students who started the semester on Aug. 27.

At CSUSM, 85 percent of business students are local and remain in the area after graduation, Hamerly said. Additionally, 85 percent work and half of those work full time.

“They are working and paying their way through school,” he said. “They have the best work ethic of any college students I’ve seen because they want to be here and they are working to pay their way through school.”

Because of the requirement and upperclassmen electing to take the class, Jill Laing, CSUSM’s director of student services, said the college is offering 13 sections this fall. Each section is represented by one executive in residence (EIR) plus a course instructor.

With the EIR, they must commit 100 hours per year in both the classroom and volunteering with the students. The two-credit class also gives students one-on-one coaching with an EIR, while the instructor develops the class’ content, according to Laing.

“It helps them create goals that are fluid,” she explained. “They’ll also work with them on some of the basic things like resume writing and mock interviews.”

Although students are given plenty of practical and hard skills through their traditional studies, Hamerly saw a hole, the soft skills. For example, business etiquette at lunch or dinner, resume building, following up after interviews, networking skills, measuring career confidence and many others were missing.

When Hamerly took over as dean, one of his first questions was why the students were not doing better landing jobs. He said the number of students at graduation is “embarrassing low,” and after interviewing graduating students and meeting with the advisory board, Hamerly discovered some startling statistics.

Eighty-five percent of those graduates, when on location for a job interview and asked if there was anything they wanted to tell the interviewer, said nothing. In addition, 85 percent never followed up, even with a thank you note.

Hamerly realized the students, through no fault of their own, did not possess professional and soft skills, the traits needed to stand out during an interview and receive a job offer.

“When I talk about professional skills, I mean, do you know how to break into a conversation?” Hamerly rhetorically asked. “Do you know how to have a business meal? These are really simple things our students simply don’t have.”

Hamerly said he relates to many of the CSUSM student body, as he was a first-generation college student and also did not have those soft skills. Fifty-five percent of CSUSM students are first generation and come from blue-collar and low-income backgrounds, as Hamerly did growing up in Pittsburgh in the 1950s and ‘60s.

The EIRs have been recruited as instructors. They will be spending about 10 hours per week coaching the students, Laing said.

“It doesn’t matter what your background is or who you are, everybody can continue the soft skill development,” Laing said. “Eighty percent of our students say that the program and EIR have contributed to their career confidence level and what direction they are going to go.”

The class, meanwhile, is required for every business student and conducted during their sophomore year. Of course, this year’s crop of juniors and seniors are not required the class.

Hamerly started the business professional development program two years ago as a pilot program with eight instructors. Last year it grew to 15 C-level executives and this year is the first year it is required for credit.

“Things like business ethics, business etiquette, how to do career exploration and how to be an effective communicator,” Hamerly explained. “They will have done a lot of instruments and a psychological profile of what are their strengths and weaknesses, and we will actually connect them with a couple disciplines that we think are ideal jobs for them.”


Claudia September 6, 2018 at 12:02 pm

I think this class is helpful to students. I just started school this semester as a junior transfer student and am currently taking it. Although it stated in the article that this year’s junior and senior students not required to take class; I am glad to sign up for it. They provide practical business skills and as the article mentioned, “soft skills” that could help you stand out more as a potential employee. As a financial aid student, I am also aware of the tuition cost, but I believe this program is worth taking. This month, I am attending a business etiquette dinner. I am looking forward to it. I recognize the speaker/etiquette coach Elaine Swann because I have wanted my children to take her dining etiquette class. She has been on the news coverage and has a good reputation in teaching etiquette skills. I’m glad that CSUSM hired a well-qualified guest speaker/coach to teach the students.
As for the other things listed on class syllabus such as resume/cover letter writing, online work profiles and mock interviews…Although I feel confident about my current resume; it would be helpful to know any critique so I can improve it. As well as learning any tools to help me deal with anxiety/stress during work interviews.
This class is definitely a great addition to the business program.

Michael tate September 4, 2018 at 11:34 am

Oh great, another class I have to take and more money in the schools pockets. Thanks Dean! I thought I would be done with my business General ed this semester, please don’t make me do another semester just for that one class.

Chris September 6, 2018 at 11:43 am

This class should in no way be a requirement. Simple internet research or a “how-to” book can give you a guide to writing a resume, interview tips, etc. This is sad, fostering a snowflake mentality at CSU. Students should have the initiative and critical thinking skills to accomplish this on their own.

Side note:
“Fifty-five percent of CSUSM students are first generation and come from blue-collar and low-income backgrounds, as Hamerly did growing up in Pittsburgh in the 1950s and ‘60s.” CSUSM charges $300+ for a semester of parking…

Chris September 7, 2018 at 11:16 am


This is a great program and I would recommend that you take advantage of it as much as possible. I am a COBA grad and am working in a management role at a tech company in North County. One of the biggest issues that I have when interviewing recent grads is that they do not ask questions during the interview and do not follow-up with a thank you note. I would assume any student currently taking COBA classes is in there with the intention of getting a well-paying jobs after school and the school is trying to do all they can to make that happen.

I saw this when I was about to graduate. The students who took advantage of as many of these soft-skill programs as they could and were involved in the respective society for their emphasis got jobs before graduation and the students who didn’t take advantage of these programs were much less likely.


Reading a “how-to” book or doing internet research is not the same as actually doing it. There is a huge difference between reading a few articles online about how to write a good resume versus sitting in front of a C-level exec at a local company, who actually might want to hire you, and have them critique your resume and do mock interviews with you. This is not a “snowflake mentality,” it is the school preparing the students for and often uncertain and dynamic job market. Writing a good resume and interviewing are learned skills that need to be practiced over time and don’t think it’s unreasonable for it to be a requirement if local industry is consistently telling the school that this is a skill their graduates are lacking.

Michael September 10, 2018 at 1:02 am

Most business students already worked on resumes in the required business writing class. I don’t need to take a whole semester of a class to know what questions to ask when being interviewed. This class should be optional.

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