Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Apprentice TV Show winner Randal Pinkett addresses students

Randal Pinkett, winner of NBC's reality TV show "The Apprentice," visited Mississippi State's campus Thursday to host a business plan competition and share with students his experiences as an entrepreneur.
The competition was held in McCool Hall's Rogers Auditorium at 2 p.m. In the event, students had the chance to team up and present their business plans to Pinkett, the sole judge. Three teams were given eight minutes to present their ideas with an additional two minutes for questioning. As Donald Trump did on "The Apprentice," Pinkett either hired or fired each team. A traffic light symbol was used to keep time and signify another group's turn.
Sponsored by the Thad Cochran Endowment for Entrepreneurship, a cash award of $500 was given to the winner.
"Randal is a great representative and role model to students, as well as African-Americans," said Gerald Nelson, director of the College of Engineering entrepreneurship program. "Tommy Stevenson came in my office with the idea for him to come, and we actually booked him in March of last year."
Pinkett's speech began at 7 p.m. in the Humphrey Coliseum with approximately 500 students present. He addressed the crowd by introducing himself, listing his credentials, giving insight to his past and the lessons he learned along the way to become the president and CEO of BCT Partners, a multi-million-dollar management, technology and policy consulting services firm.
Pinkett was born in Philadelphia, Pa., and raised in East Windsor, N.J. He graduated from Hightstown High School in New Brunswick and continued his education to receive five academic degrees: a Bachelor of
Science in electrical engineering from Rutgers University, a Master of Science in computer science from Oxford University in England, a Master of Science in electrical engineering and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a Master of Business Administration from the MIT Sloan School and a doctorate from the MIT Media Laboratory.
Pinkett was the first African-American to receive a Rhodes scholarship at Rutgers University.
"Do you remember your first day on campus, your first football game, your first time to oversleep or the first time you couldn't read a professor's handwriting?" Pinkett asked the audience. "Your experiences at MSU are like walking down a path with obstacles and speedlights."
Business is an adventure. You never know what will happen next, he said.
Pinkett's wife came up with the idea for him to apply for "The Apprentice." Although he repeatedly said he was too busy, she downloaded the application from the NBC Web site, and he filled it out. Soon after, Pinkett received a phone call from the producer and was selected as one of the 18 contestants out of the millions that applied for season four of the show.
During his speech, he asked the audience what their dreams would be if all the restraints were taken away, like a child's imagination. It's a powerful exercise, he said. Pinkett encouraged everyone to be daring and dream big. Disliking the word 'or,' he favors the conjunction, 'and.'
"The power of 'and' is the power of possibilities," Pinkett said.
After being on "The Apprentice," he gained more of the ability to get things done. So much is asked of you in such a short period of time, he said. He walked away from the show with an entirely different perspective. He made reference to managing his time and balancing out everything in his life.
"It's not rocket science," Pinkett said. "You just have to figure out what your priorities are and align your life accordingly."
In addition to his numerous degrees, Pinkett has contributed to four books and published more than 20 scholarly papers. He is writing two books: "Campus CEO," a book targeted at students who want to own their own business, and "Black Faces in White Places: 10 Steps for African-Americans to Redefine the Game."
Students can find more information about being an entrepreneur at www.tcee.msstate.edu.


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