Skip to Content

What I Love About the Executive Forum

Henry Sklar


When I started at Purdue a few years ago, I had no idea I would network with outstanding industry professionals for class credit. Now, as a first-semester senior, I’m in the Executive Forum class at the Daniels School of Business where I consistently connect with seasoned leaders.

The Executive Forum brings in successful Purdue alums and other executives from around the business world to share their experiences and life lessons with current students in the Daniels School. The class structure is a bit different than a typical 3-credit lecture or lab, with each speaker spending time with groups of students at coffee and lunch hours before and after class in addition to a class-wide lecture once a week on Fridays.

While I’m pursuing my marketing degree here at Purdue, I’m taking advantage of every opportunity to learn and lead, whether in my internships, as President of the Purdue Marketing Association, or seeking holistic insights about the business world from executives who speak to us. Having heard from incredible leaders from various business disciplines each week of this semester, I’ve been particularly impacted by a couple of standouts personally and professionally.

Before one of the forum class sessions, I was given an opportunity for an individual meet-and-greet with speaker Aaron Johnson, the Great Lakes Area Vice President for Waste Management, where we immediately connected on a personal level.

Student in conversation with executive
I enjoyed connecting with Aaron outside of class! I learned so much about leadership and his personal journey.

I was initially drawn to speaking with Aaron because my dad used to work for Waste Management. With this connection, we quickly developed rapport. He even had me call my dad to find out if they worked for the company at the same time! While they never met, hearing them connect over the processes Waste Management used many years ago helped me to relate with Aaron. In addition to our shared experiences, Aaron gave me valuable insights on leadership and personal development. I resonated with his comments on professional growth, which emphasized the importance of effectively connecting with people. Aaron mentioned that he came from a background where personal connection wasn’t a natural skill but something he had to work hard to develop. As a result, he encouraged me to adopt a team-player mindset, always seeking to grow and learn from those around me.

Another leader I also enjoyed hearing from was Rapheal Davis, a former Purdue basketball player and current college basketball analyst at Big Ten Network. I was drawn to Rapheal because of my love for sports, and what could be better than to hear from one of Purdue’s very best! A few other students and I attended a lunch hour with him, and we got to ask him personal questions in a smaller setting.

Student and professional talking at conference table
A few other students and I had the privilege of attending the small group event with Rapheal! I gained a better understanding of leadership from his perspective in this smaller setting.

One of the first things I resonated with was our shared Indiana roots. My hometown isn’t far from Rapheal’s, which was fun to discover during the small group session. Additionally, I valued Rapheal’s commitment to community improvement. He encouraged us to use our talents and resources to give back and elevate the communities to which we belong. I admired how Rapheal utilized his leadership and financial success to make a tangible impact on the lives of those around him. As I consider my career path post-graduation, I want to maintain a humble mentality with a ready and willing heart to serve others.

The Executive Forum has also helped me develop an expanded mindset for life after Purdue. As I start to apply for full-time positions and consider where I want to work, I’ll put to use the advice of speaker Christian Piller, co-founder and President of Pollen Technologies. Christian shared some of his wisdom on professional development with our class, saying that when you’re working in a job, it should either help you learn or earn. Not every job will be my favorite, but if it's accomplishing neither of these objectives, it’s time to leave and find something else. This advice has helped me consider how I can be satisfied and motivated in my career.

Overall, I’d highly recommend the Executive Forum to any passionate business student. Not only will you connect with industry professionals, but you’ll take away usable insights from their experiences. I’m thankful for the experiences and connections I’ve gained through this class, and I can’t wait to continue learning!

Headshot of Henry Sklar

Henry Sklar is a senior from Munster, Indiana, studying marketing. He currently serves as the President of the Purdue Marketing Association, an undergraduate student organization within the Daniels School of Business. Outside of his campus involvements, Henry most recently interned with Energy BBDO as an Account Leadership Intern in Chicago.

Check out more stories from our business students!

Read More

Visit us on campus or virtually!