A new program within MTSU's Jennings A. Jones College of Business is filling an increasing need for sales professionals in the Midstate economy with the support of partnerships and a team of industry advisors.
Launched last fall, the new Professional Sales concentration within the Department of Marketing was made possible through a $100,000 donation from Nashville-based Insurance Group of America that will fund the IGA Office of Professional Sales with $20,000 annually for the next five years. Internship coordinator Laura Buckner served as interim director for fall semester and a search for a permanent director is ongoing.
The mission of the new office and its director is to increase student outreach and internship opportunities and attract top scholars to the program. A Tennessee Higher Education Commission report indicates that "thousands" of entry-level sales positions will be opening up in Tennessee over the next few years because of ongoing economic growth.
"There is such a need in industry, and I think just getting the word out to students that there is such interest from prospective employers for people with knowledge in sales ... that awareness factor will help us attract more students," said MTSU assistant marketing professor Lucy Matthews, who teaches courses within the concentration.
IGA owner and founder Jamie Noe was formally recognized with a special award for his company's contribution during the most recent Professional Sales Advisory Board meeting. About half of Noe's 20 employees are MTSU alumni, several of whom attended the meeting and are products of the university's internship partnership with IGA.
Noe is also a member of the advisory board, which is made up primarily of sponsoring sales professionals as well as alumni and community members that meet twice a year to provide feedback about the program "and make sure that our program is relevant to the students we're pursuing," Matthews said.
The most recent meeting focused on the topic of mentoring -- what a mentoring program might look like and whether students in the concentration would benefit from some form of mentoring.
Other advisory board members include: Bethany Beaty with Enterprise Rental Car; John Boyens of the Boyens Group; Nima Hayati, an MTSU alumnus; Jason Howell with State Farm; Allison Pearson with Jackson National; Mike Rausch of Fastenal; Jason Shipp with WestRock; and Kelley Stein, an MTSU alumna.
MTSU students can take four courses in the concentration: an entry level Professional Selling course, followed by Advanced Selling, Sales Management and Business to Business Marketing courses. The courses are also MT Engage and Experiential Learning (EXL) courses that emphasize hands-on learning.
MTSU junior Christine Owens of Knoxville, Tennessee, was the first student enrolled in the concentration. Owens said she enrolled in Spring 2018 while switching majors and learning of the new concentration from Matthews.
"I fell in love with the concentration. I love connecting with people and that is what sales is about!" Owens said. "This concentration has helped mold my career goals. I never would have thought about doing sales as my future. Once I joined the concentration, I learned about how sales is in everything we do. I love that I get to be a part of this new era of marketing and sales on campus."
For more information about the professional sales concentration, visit https://mtsu.edu/programs/marketing/index.php, contact Vince Smith, marketing department chair, at 615-898-2902 or Vince.Smith@mtsu.edu; assistant professor Lucy Matthews at firstname.lastname@example.org, or associate professor Diane Edmondson at Diane.Edmondson@mtsu.edu.