College of Business - Real Life. Real Business.

Real Life. Real Business

Oct. 7, 2008

Chuck WilliamsDear Alumni and Friends,

Last month, in Part 1 of a two-part message, I emailed you about the College of Business Administration's mission: to provide an experiential Real Life, Real Business education from a research active faculty. I described our:

  • Freshman Business Experience - in which first-year students learn about all the functions of a business, use survey instruments to learn about their strengths, weaknesses and tendencies, and finish the semester with the Top Dawg business plan competition that is judged by a panel of executives.
  • Real Business Experience for sophomores - a two-semester course in which student teams develop business plans, receive initial funding to test the business concept, present their business model to a panel of executives and then, if funded, run the business and pay off the start-up loan, keeping any profits. (How's that for a real world incentive!)
  • Career Development Program - in which students are assigned a professional career mentor from our Executive-in-Residence program and are required to complete a four-year, structured career development plan which requires that each student complete two internships for credit.

This month in Part 2, I want to tell you how we implement Real Life, Real Business for juniors and seniors through our Student Managed Investment Fund, Private Equity class, and Marketing courses - and for our MBA students through our Gateway and Capstone courses.

Part 2: What Real Life, Real Business Means for our Juniors, Seniors and MBA Students

Other colleges have trading rooms to simulate investing (fake bucks and fake markets) or generally allow students to manage $100,000 to $200,000. In our Student Managed Investment Fund, our undergraduates invest $1 million. (Yes, those are real dollars and imagine what our students are learning given today's markets.) Since the fund's inception a year ago, our students have beaten the performance of the S&P 500. Our finance students also have the opportunity to work on actual private equity placements. Last semester, they worked on a live project for Schoolcraft Development Company and had visits from prominent business executives such as Bristol-Myers Squibb CEO Jim Cornelius.

For the last two years, our marketing students have studied different aspects of Finish Line's marketing strategy by analyzing the company's merchandise and pricing strategies, going undercover as "secret shoppers" to examine product layout and store service, touring Finish Line's state-of-the-art distribution center, and developing ways for the company to attract college-age customers. Our students' recommendations were presented to Finish Line's top company executives to see if they met the "Real World" test. Finish Line Senior Vice President of Marketing Kevin Flynn said students' research confirmed some of Finish Line's findings while also bringing new insights. "The fact that these students happen to be in our core target audience (ages 18-24) lent credibility to their findings and made their opinions valid and relevant to us," said Flynn. "It energized us to continue the research on our own. Butler is a great school, and this class is a terrific way to give students a view into a real company. It's a great win for both of us."

MBA students kick off their graduate studies with the Gateway Experience. During a one-day intensive experience (similar to what happens on "The Apprentice"), student teams are presented with a business problem from a local company and have one day to gather research and make recommendations. Students have worked with companies such as Steak 'n Shake, HH Gregg, Aero Technologies and, most recently in August 2008, Adidas. For more information on the real challenges that our MBA students face, view this 2-minute video, in which Dr. Kathy Paulson-Gjerde, Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies, describes MBA Gateway work with Steak 'n Shake. Additional videos explain how MBA student teams gather information and analyze problems with a four-hour site visit (click here), and how they formulate and present their analyses and solutions to company executives (click here).

While our MBA students start the program with the one-day Gateway course, we up the ante by the end of the program. The Butler MBA concludes with the Capstone course in which students work on a semester-long case with a local company. The partner this semester is Rolls Royce North America. Last spring, the partner was Second Helpings, an organization that rescues prepared and perishable food, re-prepares it into nutritious meals, and then distributes those meals to over 50 social services organizations that feed hungry people. Each month, Second Helpings turns 100,000+ pounds of rescued food into 50,000 meals.

Get Involved with Real Life, Real Business

As you can see, the CBA provides an unparalleled educational experience for our students. We are also a resource for businesses and the local community. To make this work, we need the involvement of local companies and dedicated alumni like you. If you want to get involved in Real Life, Real Business, please contact me directly. I'd be glad to email you a brief document that describes 20 different opportunities for partnering with the CBA. I look forward to hearing from you and exploring how we can further our involvement with you and your business.

Chuck Williams, Dean
College of Business