Volunteers Power Career Preparation at Edge Boot Camp

News Story categories: Alumni Career Preparation
Volunteers at the Fall 2023 Edge Boot Camp pose in front of Birdsong

The Edge Boot Camp is a seminal part of the Randolph-Macon educational experience, giving sophomores a dedicated weekend that sharpens their business etiquette and critical skills like interviewing and networking.

This impactful semiannual event is powered by volunteers, who conduct mock interviews and serve as real-life networkers for students. Many come back year after year, impressed by the program, the students, and the opportunity to shape young lives. 

Spencer Gilmore ’89 has volunteered at Boot Camp since its inception. “To have a formalized program that allows you to apply this education? That’s what this is all about. That’s why I’m so passionate about the fact that it exists,” Gilmore said. “To come up here and participate is a lot of fun for me, and hopefully I can give something back to these kids so they can have a better shot out of the gate.”

Gilmore had a 30-year career with Ferguson Enterprises, a distributor of plumbing supplies and other building products headquartered in Newport News, Va. He eventually rose to Regional Operations Manager before retiring; he is now with Colony Hardware. Thanks in large part to Gilmore’s connections, the Edge Boot Camp has been a springboard for several RMC alumni into careers with Ferguson, including Lauren Orga ’17.

“She has done a marvelous job with the company, and it all started right here,” Gilmore said. “She didn’t know anything about industrial pipe valves and fittings, and here she is, owning the day in a pretty neat business that most people would have no opportunity to get into, so that was a success story.”

Joy Asekun speaks with a student at the Edge Boot Camp

Joy Asekun began volunteering at Boot Camp when her daughter enrolled at RMC three years ago; now she has three children enrolled at the College and never misses the event.

“I am a huge fan of mentoring. I’ve always mentored, I’ve had the most amazing mentors, so I tend to want to give it back,” Asekun explained.

In her conversations with students, Asekun emphasizes the need to actively think about how a major or passion can parlay into a career. She serves as a great example herself. With a bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees in English literature, she planned to be an academic. But, with a husband in the military, she had to “reinvent” herself as they moved around, eventually landing—and thriving in—a role as an instructional systems design specialist with the FBI.

“It’s one thing to have a passion or a hobby, but it’s another thing to take a major that leads to an internship, that leads to a job, that leads to grad school,” Asekun said. “I’m hoping I’m planting little seeds that help them think of that.”

Robert Thomas '11 conducts a mock interview with a student at the Edge Boot Camp

Robert Thomas ’11 remains engaged with the College in a number of ways and always makes time for Boot Camp. A double-major in business/economics and philosophy, he currently works as a manager at Arc Aspicio, a small consulting firm where he does strategy and human capital consulting for federal clients while also serving as an adjunct instructor in RMC’s philosophy department.

“I gained a lot from my time at Randolph-Macon as a student, so I care a lot about the opportunity to give back,” Thomas said. Of Boot Camp, he says, “The basic skills involved in how to tell your own story, how to engage with potential employers, and really just how to communicate in a professional context more broadly, are so critical to success in any given field.”

While the focus of Boot Camp is to get RMC students ready for the future, Thomas and the volunteers also value what the experience brings them. 

“I’ve had a lot of great, rich conversations with students in these mock interviews that hopefully they’ve considered helpful as they look ahead to their careers. But also, it’s frankly helpful for me as a way to stay in tune with how folks entering the workforce are thinking, what their strengths and challenges are,” Thomas said. “I interview a lot of people in a real-world context in my job. I’m a better interviewer from getting the practice from things like this.”

The next Edge Boot Camp, and the next opportunity to volunteer, will be Feb. 9-10, 2024.