First Friday Speaker Series Follow Up

October 5, 2016

James Lee Witt was the speaker at the latest First Friday Series on Sept. 16. The event, organized by Bryan McKinney, dean of the Hickingbotham School of Business, is held at noon in Young Auditorium around the first Friday of every month.

Distinguished alumni, successful professionals, business owners and executives with a connection to Ouachita are invited to speak at the series and engage with the students. Speakers usually talk about their profession and the lessons they have learned along throughout their careers. These real life stories give students an insight into how executives think and manage and what different business careers look like.

The aim of First Friday is “to invite business people from all walks of life [to Ouachita]…in the hope that students will hear their story and think about what they do want or don’t want to do with their lives,” McKinney said.

Because of his executive positions as both a Federal Emergency Management Agency (F.E.M.A.) director and former Clinton Cabinet Member, Witt was a great addition to the First Friday Series, bringing with him an abundance of knowledge and leadership experience.

“F.E.M.A. was not among the most highly regarded federal agencies, until  [Witt] took it over. He brought all kinds of credibility back to that organization,” McKinney said. “I’d bring in any cabinet level member we can. That’s just a really neat opportunity to let our students hear from a person of that influence.”

Not only was Witt invited because of his leadership experience but also because of his success in the business and political world. He spoke heavily on his experience as a former cabinet member and on his ongoing business ventures in global real estate.

“Probably zero students in that audience think, ‘One day I’ll be a cabinet member of a United States President.’ But, everybody in that room can listen to a successful person, hear that person’s life lessons and ask, ‘What is it that makes that person tick, what is it that makes that person successful?’ Our students can apply those truths and life lessons to their own journey.

By attending the lectures, students can gain valuable life information that will help them become successful leaders down the road. “I want students to walk away from that first Friday speaker, whether its James Lee Witt, or anyone else, having understood why that person became as successful as they are,” McKinney said. “My hope is that students will see something in that person’s life that they think they could apply to their own life.”

Attending events like this is just one of the many ways Ouachita provides a great liberal arts education. These lectures are linked to the liberal arts system because they create a well-rounded approach to topics and educate students beyond their classes. This is also the reason why there are so many diverse speakers in the speaker series.

“So much of the liberal arts education is about making connections between various points that matter…you’re going to learn something from that and it’s going to be useful.”


By AJ Stambolie, Student Writer

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