Embracing the crucial relationship between business and higher education, more than 300 suburban business and civic leaders came to Elmhurst College last week to forge new connections and build on existing ones during a business after-hours hosted by the College.
The large-scale networking event, held Thursday, July 26, in the Founders Lounge of the Frick Center, drew members of the chambers of commerce for Elmhurst, Addison, Downers Grove and Lombard, as well as the GOA Regional Business Association and Choose DuPage, the county’s economic development organization.
Elmhurst College hosted the event as a meaningful way to stay connected with the business community and to showcase the College’s new School for Professional Studies.
“It’s important for business and education to work together—a strong, educated workforce is the backbone of any business,” said Timothy H. Ricordati, dean of the School for Professional Studies. “Look at the strength of the economic horsepower in this room right now,” he continued. “My goal is to partner with every single person here to work on how to improve the labor force in DuPage County.”
The School for Professional Studies, established this past spring, is tailored to meet the needs of working professionals seeking to upgrade their skills or change careers, and employers seeking to stay at the leading edge in their fields with highly trained and educated workers. The School offers accelerated-undergraduate, graduate and certificate programs both on and off campus, in state-of-the-art classrooms and online. Areas of study run the gamut from business to the computer sciences, education to the health professions.
“So many good things are available at Elmhurst College for professionals and adult learners, and this event is a showcase for that,” said Lee A. Daniels, a Distinguished Fellow at the College and Special Assistant to the President for Government and Community Relations. “We want to tell the business community that we are dedicated to educational quality while also remaining an affordable educational option.”
The City of Elmhurst, its business community and Elmhurst College have been strong partners over the years, and the multi-chamber after-hours event was a great way to highlight that relationship, said John Quigley, president and CEO of the Elmhurst Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
“One of the things that makes the City of Elmhurst exceptional is that it is home to a four-year college,” said Quigley, a 1977 Elmhurst College graduate with a dual degree in business administration and public speaking. “There’s a great feeder system between the College and local businesses that helps students to find mentors, internships and, ultimately, full-time employment when they graduate.”
Business and civic leaders at the gathering also noted the strong ties between Elmhurst College and the business community.
“The more education and business can learn to work together, the better off we are at training workers and creating jobs. Elmhurst College is doing that with events like these,” said attorney Robert J. Schillerstrom, former chairman of the DuPage County Board and a DuPage County Republican Committeeman.
Naturally, the event also was an opportunity for members of the business community to network on a grand scale. Attendees mingled, exchanged business cards, enjoyed hot hors d’oeuvres and cold drinks, and took a chance on winning one of the five large gift baskets that Elmhurst College raffled off.
The advantage to these kinds of events is the “economies of scale,” said Shirlanne Lemm, president and CEO of the GOA Regional Business Association, headquartered in Itasca. “It’s nice when you go to an event and there are 50 people. This event has 300. So instead of doing five or six after-hours, you can do one.
“You have to always be out there. Even if business is good, you have to keep the pipeline fed,” she added. “This event offers people the opportunity to build relationships.”