Anthony Johnson travels with NMGZ


Anthony Johnson, a first-year financial management major, was selected to represent The University of Akron in Cleveland, Ohio, April 16-19, as part of the National Millennial and GenZ Community (NMGZ). Comprised of undergraduate and graduate students from around the U.S., NMGZ allows students to visit companies, foundations, non-profit organizations, etc., and interact with organization leadership. Sydney Chinchanachokchai, Assistant Professor of Marketing, is the faculty advisor for The University of Akron.

Read about Anthony’s experiences here:

The NMGZ Cleveland group of students and the professionals from the Greater Cleveland Partnership

Q: Describe yourself and how/when you decided to pursue financial management as an area of study?

I am curious, even keeled, and a student with a veracious appetite to learn. I gained an interest in business during my senior year of high school from watching YouTube videos. I was the least competent in the finance aspect of business, so I chose to major in it. I chose financial management, because I will have the opportunity to manage a company’s finances and make decisions that impact the entire corporation.

Group photo of students taken after a meeting with CEO Chas Withers, and Senior Managing Director, Lisa Zone, of Dix & Eaton.

Q: Tell us about the NMGZ trip to Cleveland

The organization's main mission is to engage in civil discourse that results in innovative problem solving and dispels some of the negative myths and misconceptions about younger millennials and Generation Z. Most of my friends think there is nothing interesting in Cleveland. “The last exciting event was when Lebron James won the NBA Championship in 2016”—thoughts like that. They have no idea. The Cleveland NMGZ group and I were able to discuss public relations ethics with Chas Withers, the CEO of Dix & Eatons, and we discussed concerns of predatory lending with professionals from KeyBank. We were given a tour on how the Cleveland Museum of Art has integrated technology to create a more engaging experience for visitors. We recorded a podcast episode at PodPopuli on the power of mentors. We had a trivia game night at the Good Night John Boy nightclub. Our group consisted of 16 people, and I developed more meaningful friendships as everyone could fit at one large table.

Q: What was special about your opportunity to travel and be part of NMGZ?

I call Cleveland home, but I never explored the city. I moved around frequently, because my dad is in the military. This trip was an opportunity for me to explore my hometown and understand why people chose to stay in Cleveland. It was inspiring to learn about the work being done by Destination Cleveland and the Greater Cleveland Partnership.

One special part of NMGZ is the like-minded network. Sometimes, I feel like the only person in a room who wants to change the world for my immediate community. My peers, the professors, and the professionals who are connected through NMGZ are enacting change within their communities. I found inspiration, and I am thankful for that.

Students in NMGZ taking notes in the Greater Cleveland Partnership board room. The professionals discussed the rebranding of Cleveland.

Q: What was your biggest takeaway from the trip?

My biggest takeaway is the need to ask tough questions and have hard conversations. Although the NMGZ trip was fun, when it was time to visit the company, the atmosphere changed. It was time to work. My peers asked the professionals at the company about DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion), ethics, politics, and company failures. These questions pushed the need for civil discourse. That is a purpose of NMGZ: to provide the space for young professionals to participate in crucial conversations.

Q: How did this opportunity benefit you professionally and help you grow as a student?

This opportunity broadened my network. I was able to grow by learning vicariously through others’ rich experiences. Most of my conversations involved 15% of me asking questions, 5% of me restating what someone else says, and 80% of me listening.

This trip reminded me that I am going the right direction. If I continue to show up, engage, ask questions, and act on the advice given, opportunities will come. The growth and wisdom I gain now will compound and pay dividends in the future.