Blue Cross Blue Shield opens retail center in Boone, employs students through new program, supports programming in the Walker College of Business.

Representatives from Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) of North Carolina traveled to Boone recently to present a check to students and staff in Peacock Hall, home of Appalachian State University’s Walker College of Business.

On hand were retail operations manager Alec Hoffman, Boone center manager Wayne Randall, director of sales Ashlee Smart and vice president Gary Bolt, who also serves as a board member for the Walker College’s Brantley Risk & Insurance Center.

The group presented staff members and students with a $25,000 check to support programs in the college. The visit was coordinated with the opening of a BCBS retail center in Boone.

Retail center will be third of its kind

The center is only the third of its kind -- the other two are in Raleigh and Charlotte, North Carolina -- intended to provide members with better access to information and service.

“The center is one way we’re moving the industry forward, and we’re excited to be in partnership with Appalachian and supporting our future leaders,” said retail operations manager Alec Hoffman. “Members are glad to have a place to come talk, learn and be educated on all health and wellness opportunities.”

The centers are one new way that BCBS is offering customer service to members.

“We opened the center to be a part of this community,” said Boone center manager Wayne Randall. “We partnered with Appalachian to make sure that we’re serving community members and students alike.”

Randall said there are 13 students who will work as licensed BCBS representatives for the 2018-19 academic year. “It’s exciting to be able to partner with them and see them grow and see them excited about their careers and what they’ll be doing when they graduate and moving forward,” he said.

The new center is located on Howard Street, offering community members access through shared parking with adjacent businesses between Howard and Rivers Streets. The center’s close proximity to Peacock Hall will also ensure easy access for the student employees.

“It’s a great opportunity to gain the synergies from what the students bring, what the blue cross team brings, what the school brings,” said vice president Gary Bolt, who also serves as a board member for the Walker College’s Brantley Risk & Insurance Center. “There are lots of possibilities in terms of what the students will learn and how Appalachian’s new benefits program might influence students and industry.”

Partnerships with Appalachian

Appalachian launched an employee benefits minor last year, which aims to prepare graduates for careers in underwriting, claims, and brokerage, among others. Students studying benefits learn all facets of employer-provided benefits, including medical, prescription, dental, retirement benefit plans, wellness programs, disability income, child care benefits, group life and long term care insurance plans.

“There’s a great opportunity for students to see what working with Blue Cross is like,” said Hoffman. “There are a lot of opportunities around the state, and we want students to explore these career opportunities.”

Hoffman’s goals align well with the goals of the business career services staff in the Walker College. 

“We provide professional, leadership and career coaching to undergraduate student,” said Amy Odom, associate director of business career services. “We strive to ensure that every graduate is employed upon graduation.”

Related: Ninety percent of Walker College graduates employed or continuing education six months after commencement

“BCBS philanthropy is allowing more students in the Walker College these experiences,” Odom added. “Their philanthropic work at Appalachian and the investment they’ve made in our local community through is commendable.”

About Business Career Services

Business Career Services in the BB&T Student Leadership Center provides opportunities for business students to build career skills through professional and leadership development training. The center provides career services with personalized coaching and support to business students as they prepare for a career beyond Appalachian. Learn more at

Front row, from left, are BCBS director of sales Ashlee Smart, retail operations manager Alec Hoffman, Boone center manager Wayne Randall, and vice president Gary Bolt presenting a $25,000 check to Appalachian’s Brantley Risk and Insurance center director Dave Marlett and business career services associate director Amy Odom.
Published: Oct 4, 2018 12:00am