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January 8, 2018 WBJ 2018 Best of Business

Nichols College focuses on the little things

Nichols College, Dudley.

Nichols College doesn't have the financial heft to match up in all ways with larger area business schools at places like Boston College or Northeastern University.

But the small Dudley college has made up for the difference by changing its focus to areas where other schools might not look.

All Nichols students are required to take professional development seminars over four years, which include developing a resume, cover letter and portfolio, conducting mock interviews, and other real-life skills other schools might offer only as options.

Nichols requires its business students – who make up about 90 percent of the student body – to take an effective-speaking course, including at least eight presentations over the course of a semester.

The focus has paid off, said Luanne Westerling, Nichols' associate dean for business.

“We've gotten feedback at job fairs of, 'Your students perform well,'” she said.

Not coincidentally, 92 percent of business graduates are placed in a job or advanced-degree program within six months of graduation.

The business program had its largest-ever class this fall with 1,220 full-time students – Nichols first time over 1,200 – with a student body more geographically diverse than in the past.

Nichols helps students not just talk the part but also look the part. It has lent suits, dresses, shoes and other attire students might need for an interview at its on-campus shop, Bison Boutique.

“It's getting a lot of use,” Westerling said.

AAFCPAs, an accounting firm in Westborough, employs 24 Nichols graduates, with three more slated to join in June, said Jack Finning, a partner and one of the firm's founders.

Finning joined the advisory board for Nichols' business program two years ago, and said the school has done a great job at expanding its visibility in the area.

“It's a hidden gem,” Finning said, crediting Nichols students for their preparation for interviews. “They seem more confident in interviews than we see from those from some other schools.”

Unum Group, a Worcester insurance company, is another major employer of Nichols graduates.

The company has a summer internship program called Unum Scholars in which students work 10 to 15 hours per week.

Nichols students are regular enrollees in the program, often finding full-time jobs with the company afterward.

“They have a really good reputation,” said Steve Joseph, an Unum senior vice president. “There are so many fine institutions here locally, and Nichols is certainly one of them.”

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