Career Choices

Pictured from left: Donors Tom and Barbara Hughes with Linda Malgeri, executive director of the program

Students like Joellen Espenship say college is more than just graduating and finding a job. This…

Georgia (Sep 25, 2014)

Students like Joellen Espenship say college is more than just graduating and finding a job. This sophomore finance major is already identifying her personal strengths and exploring career options long before graduation day. 

Now with the help of a new center in the Michael J. Coles College of Business, Kennesaw State students interested in business careers have some tools to aid them in making career choices early.

“I wanted to be a financial advisor because that’s the only career I knew was possible as a finance major,” said Espenship. “Now I am learning about lots of other careers that are available to me with a finance degree.”

Espenship is one of 367 students who joined the Hughes Leadership and Career program this fall. The program includes a series of three free courses, a talent assessment and access to Coles College career coaches.

Housed in the newly opened Hughes Leadership and Career Center in the Coles College, the program was designed with employer recruiter input and faculty expertise and is open to any Kennesaw State student considering a business career.

The center houses full-time faculty career coaches, in every business discipline area, who each bring more than 15 years of industry experience to Kennesaw State. The coaches offer one-on-one career coaching and guide students in identifying their career aspirations as well as teach students how to use Web-based tools like Skype and InterviewStream for interviewing remotely.

“Students, and their parents, want to be sure they attain jobs after graduation,” said Linda Malgeri, executive director of the Hughes Leadership and Career program. She said the program focuses on student development to prepare for careers, not on the job search itself.

Espenship said she’s excited about all of the resources available through the program.

“I like that this program will help me find a career that fits me and that I like,” said Espenship. “Knowing exactly what I want and what I am good at will give me a competitive edge with companies over other college graduates.”

The program also offers students access to assessments to best understand their own personal motivations, attitudes and behaviors in 34 talent areas. 

“Students can go into any career, but the assessment helps them to understand what works best in their career of choice,” Malgeri said. “Because of this assessment, students know who they are and what they can bring to an organization.”

Students often tell a potential employer that they can be “jacks of all trades,” when in actuality, employers want someone with a specific direction, she added.

Lea Davis, a management major, calls the Hughes Leadership and Career program a “non-traditional approach to self-discovery and career exploration.” Davis said that having a 4.0 GPA is not enough to land a job these days, and that this program teaches about the importance of careers and work experience that students are not able to learn in the classroom.

In a survey of Kennesaw State business students last year, a majority of students believed their starting salaries should be significantly higher than what the market actually is, explained Malgeri.

The program requires students to research jobs and understand salary ranges, especially as it relates to their experience.

The program was only expected attract about 50 students when initially launched this semester, but instead drew nearly 400 students to the first course, “Discovering My Major and Career.”

“It has been exciting to see the creation of the Hughes Leadership and Career program, and for our students to be able to have meaningful conversations about careers and aspirations,” said Kathy Schwaig, dean of the Coles College.

The Center and the program was made possible by a $500,000 gift from Atlanta businessman Tom Hughes and his wife, Barbara.

“This program will help to give KSU business school graduates every advantage to be successful in finding employment,” said Tom Hughes, who earned his MBA from Kennesaw State and serves on the University’s Board of Trustees and the Coles College Advisory Board.

The program is expected to grow to about 1,500 students by Fall 2015. 

-- Tiffany Capuano; Photo by Anthony Stalcup


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit