Three student organizations in the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business—Nexxus, Women of Haslam, and Women in Business Analytics in Tennessee, or WomBAT—are providing women business majors an opportunity to build a community of support and empowerment on campus.
“These organizations develop students professionally and socially,” said Nexxus President Bridgette Larsen, a senior supply chain major from Winchester, Virginia. “I think some important aspects are just making sure women don’t feel alone, they do have a voice, and that they are heard in the classroom.”
Established in 2015, Nexxus was one of the first organizations specifically created for women majoring in business. Nearly 200 women are members.
“Walking into a class where you’re the only woman can be intimidating,” said Larsen. “In a lot of historically underrepresented majors like finance, business analytics, and supply chain, it’s common that when you see another girl in the classroom you already kind of start that support system because you have this one thing in common.”
Currently, 38 percent of undergraduate students in the college are women.
“I think the college of business does a great job at keeping things very neutral, and I’ve never felt excluded,” said Paige Dierks, a senior business analytics major from Acworth, Georgia, and the president of Women of Haslam. “I think it’s been great that our organizations can foster a space for female empowerment.”
Women of Haslam was founded in August 2019, giving women another place to feel they belong. It was created to give students the opportunity to practice professional development skills and meet other women business majors. The organization is not limited to women in the college and is open to anyone who is interested in gaining professional business skills.
“I think the overall purpose is to bring women together, whether they’re business majors or not,” said Dierks. “We have a variety of people who aren’t business majors that are in the organization, and even a few on our executive board. I think just being able to connect women together in such an open, honest, and relaxed environment is empowering in its own sense.”
Recently reestablished, WomBAT provides a space to discuss issues women encounter in the workplace. Initially established for graduate students in business analytics, the organization opened to all students this spring and has grown to more than 30 members.
According to Jesse Higdon, a dual MBA–MSBA student from Knoxville serving as co-social chair of WomBAT, previous members wanted to provide a welcoming space for everyone, regardless of class year or major.
Leaders of all three organizations have similar goals for their members: they want them to feel seen, heard, and welcome while furthering their professional career and goals.
“It really is a community, not just people joining so they have something to put on their resume,” said Nexxus member Ella Uehling, a first-year supply chain major from Franklin, Tennessee. “The organization is full of women that support one another and want to help each other succeed.”
Events are hosted to allow members to interact and network with other successful women. Nexxus has plans to partner with Vans and Honda this semester as well as hosting a variety of speakers. Their events focus around four elements: socializing, professional development, education, and diversity.
WomBAT will also be hosting speakers to allow members to see a variety of successful women in the industry.
“Our organizations have similar values and goals, and all have the overall mission of bringing women together,” said Dierks. “We want these women to walk away feeling like they were a part of something.”
Carmyn Gutierrez (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Stacy Estep (email@example.com, 865-974-7881)