The Honors Program's trip to San Francisco took them behind the scenes of Silicon Valley and introduced them to life on the West Coast.
Honors trip to San Francisco explores the future and the "human experience"
Nov 06, 2019

Twenty Honors students, from both the University’s College of Business and College of Arts and Sciences recently traveled to San Francisco  to see some of the world’s leading companies and institutions in action, build connections, and explore another part of the country. Through the annual Honors trip, they developed a new understanding of how things work and what the future holds. 

Edinaldo Tebaldi, Ph.D., Professor of Economics and Director of the Honors Program, explains that the trip, which was subsidized for the students, had several goals. “Through visiting San Francisco, the students enriched their knowledge of history, of culture, of business, of innovation,” notes Tebaldi. “Yes, they learned about new technologies and industry, but the whole journey provided them with a unique human experience that would not be possible from within a traditional classroom.”

James Shanahan, Ph.D., Bryant's John '01H and Jeanne Rowe Professor of Data Science, helped organize several of the trip’s site visits. “There’s an amazing energy in San Francisco and people from all over the world committed to new ideas," he notes.

"The opportunity to visit top-name organizations such as Pandora, the Federal Reserve, and Oracle was the chance of a lifetime," says Communication major Alex Chace '20. "Learning firsthand about the systems, ideas, and technologies that play such a big part in our lives helps us takes our education a step higher."

“I liked that we were able to actually have real conversations with industry leaders. I really appreciate that they seemed to listen to us and give thoughtful answers to our questions.”

Building the future

A visit to Oracle, a multinational computer technology corporation, led to an in-depth exploration of the future of artificial intelligence and gave the students the opportunity to run their own experiments with machine learning. “There are so many amazing emerging technologies coming into play, and it’s going to be tomorrow’s challenge and responsibility to help manage them and build solutions through the companies you guys found and work for,” says Dain Hansen, Vice President Product Marketing, Cloud Platform (PaaS, IaaS). 

Bryant President Ronald K. Machtley, who joined the students for several of the events, says that the University’s focus on real-world learning has prepared them to meet that challenge. "We want to make sure our students leave Bryant not just knowing what's happening around them, but also what’s going to happen in the future,” he says. "Whatever their future profession is going to be, it's going to be impacted by the ideas and technologies that they discussed on this trip."

“I’m figuring out what I want to do for my career, and my education is so well-rounded that I could go into a lot of areas. It’s good to know the important thing is ‘Can I do the work?’ because that’s what my time at Bryant has been all about.”

For Leadership and Innovation major Haleigh Resnick ’20, the trip allowed her to see the lessons she had learned in courses like Strategic Management of Technological Innovation at work. “Being able to connect what I’ve been learning about emerging technologies with real tech companies has been really interesting,” she says. “I liked that we were able to actually have real conversations with industry leaders and I really appreciate that they seemed to listen to us and give thoughtful answers to our questions.”

Open horizons

At the offices of Pandora, a music streaming and automated music recommendation internet radio service, the students toured behind the scenes of a leading Silicon Valley company. They also spoke with employees representing a wide variety of departments, from a creative project manager to an advertising scientist. 

“This trip was a great opportunity to learn more about how different companies operate. It was really useful to see the fundamentals of how all of these different businesses are run. That will help me in my career, even if I go into a different industry.

“You can study just about anything and find a job in this industry,” noted Pandora University Recruiter and Marketer Anthony Chidoro, who spoke to the students about opportunities there as well as general strategies for job hunting. “What you’ve done and the projects you’ve worked on – that’s what going to help you get a spot at a company.” 

For Economics and Team and Project Management double major Aidan Serrano ’20 that advice was invaluable. “I’m figuring out what I want to do for my career, and my education is so well-rounded that I could go into a lot of areas,” he says. “It’s good to know the important thing is ‘Can I do the work?’ because that’s what my time at Bryant has been all about.”

Broadened perspective

The group was welcomed at enterprise search technology start-up Lucidworks, where they engaged in discussion with CEO Will Hayes, examined the ethical implications of the increasingly technology-driven world with the company’s Chief People Officer, and took part in a demo showcasing how the organization’s search-assist technology works. 

“I really enjoyed listening to the speech the LucidWorks CEO gave,” says Accounting major Allyson McCorison ’20. “He talked about the technical work his company was doing, but he also talked about the practical side of running a company and how all of it came together. He gave us some really practical advice that we can apply to our lives.”

“Going to the Federal Reserve was pretty amazing. I’ve learned a lot in class about what their goals are and what they do, but to actually see it in person, experience it, and talk with the people there has given me a new insight into everything.

“This trip was a great opportunity to learn more about how different companies operate,” says Alexander Mangione-Smith ’20, an International Business major with concentrations in Accounting and Spanish. “It was really useful to see the fundamentals of how all of these different businesses are run. That will help me in my career, even if I go into a different industry.”

Spirit of exploration

In addition to the tech companies, the group also toured historical and cultural sites such as Alcatraz and the Hall Wines Vineyard, and even had some time to explore the city on their own. For International Business major Lauren Abbot ’20, the trip was a great opportunity to see another part of the country. “It’s really cool to be immersed in a new city like this, to experience everything from the architecture, to the culture,” she says, likening the experience to her study abroad term in Bilbao, Spain. 

“I’ve never left the East Coast before,” notes Serrano. “This is a great way to learn about life and businesses out here. At every site we’ve visited, everyone’s been so helpful and informative.”

“All of the alumni have been in our shoes and they can give us advice from their own lives. They know the ropes, so they can tell us what to expect.”

A tour of the Federal Reserve and a roundtable session with research economists and research associates provided the students with an insider’s view of how a major American institution affects everyone. “Going to the Federal Reserve was pretty amazing,” Serrano says. “I’ve learned a lot in class about what their goals are and what they do, but to actually see it in person, experience it, and talk with the people there has given me a new insight into everything.” 

Important advice

An alumni reception helped the students make important connections as well. “All of us here really appreciate all that Bryant has done for us and want to give back as much as possible,” noted Michael Gurevich ’96, President of the technology and public transit start-up Stealth. “A reception like this allows the students to benefit from a wide range of experience and broaden their horizons.” 

“They’re discussing what they’ve taken away from the experience from their individual perspectives, their individual disciplines, and trading insights. And because of that, they end up with a much more robust outlook on the whole experience.”

Accounting major Stephanie Souza ’20 appreciated the opportunity to talk to the alumni and build her network. “It comes down to experience,” she says “All of the alumni have been in our shoes and they can give us advice from their own lives. They know the ropes, so they can tell us what to expect.”

“It’s full circle. They all had their own mentors, who did the same things for them, so they just want to pass that on,” adds Natalie Terranova ’20. “We’re all here in the Bryant community for one another and to help each other out.”

The big picture

It’s that sense of camaraderie that made the trip truly special, notes Communication Senior Lecturer Susan Baran, the Honors Program’s Associate Director. “The students are sharing the experience with one another,” she points out. “They’re discussing what they’ve taken away from the experience from their individual perspectives, their individual disciplines, and trading insights. And because of that, they end up with a much more robust outlook on the whole experience.”

“I joined the Honors Program for opportunities like this,” notes Michael Ruicki ’20. “Opportunities to be in classes with like-minded, dedicated people, and explore through trips like this.”

Read More

Related Stories