College of Business - Real Life. Real Business.

Real Life. Real Business

Sept. 7, 2008

Chuck WilliamsDear Alumni and Friends,

In my first monthly email in August, I introduced myself as the new Dean of Butler's College of Business Administration. Now I turn to a much better set of topics; namely, the CBA's exciting people, events and plans. Of course, there's no better place to begin than with our mission: To provide an experiential Real Life, Real Business education from a research-active faculty. As you learn about this mission, I know that you'll agree that what we're doing is unique and value added. It's one of the reasons that I chose to come here as Dean. There's a lot to tell you, so I'll be talking about Part 1 this month and Part 2 in my October email.

Part 1: What Real Life, Real Business Means to You and Our Students

For undergraduates, "real life, real business" begins their first semester on campus with the Freshman Business Experience (FBE) course. Instead of waiting until the sophomore year to begin taking business classes, which is the typical approach at most business schools, FBE introduces our first-year business students to all of the functional areas of business (accounting, finance, informational technology, international business, management, marketing and operations), and starts a semester-long exploration process based on survey instruments such as the MBTI (the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory) and the DISC Profile (an assessment of behavioral types and personality styles: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, Conscientiousness) to help students learn about their strengths, weaknesses and tendencies.

The FBE course is kicked off by the Get Real Weekend which occurs shortly after Labor Day. Students work in teams in a variety of activities, facilitated by our dedicated faculty and staff, which culminate in a personal challenge on the high ropes course in Butler's Holcomb Gardens. During the semester, each FBE section is assigned a corporate partner who hosts students for a corporate visit, visits the class to discuss how the different functions of business are addressed in their company, and then participates as a corporate judge for the Top Dawg Business Competition, which ends the semester. In Top Dawg, FBE student teams present business plans they have written to a panel of corporate executives whose high, real world expectations match those of the CBA faculty who teach FBE.

Students build on FBE in the fall semester of their sophomore year when they take the Real Business Experience (RBE) course, which spans two semesters. In the first semester, student teams develop start-up plans for a viable business and receive initial funding to test the business concept in the marketplace, which is not just limited to the Butler campus. Following initial testing, students present their business model to an independent funding panel, comprised of alumni and local business executives. If funded, the students have the opportunity to take the second semester RBE course, in which they start and actually run their funded business. Because the timeframe is short, the focus in the second semester is on risk-taking, learning from mistakes and breaking even. Each RBE student team (not class, but team) is guided by a mentor who has significant business experience. What a way to learn! Remember, RBE is in the sophomore year, just as students are beginning to learn about business concepts. Why? So that when students take their core business classes as juniors, they'll be able to relate the material to the experiences they had in RBE. And, again, every one of our undergraduates does RBE, not just a select group of juniors or seniors.

Finally, we focus on Real Life by infusing career development throughout the four-year curriculum. In addition to a faculty advisor, students are assigned a professional career mentor from our Executive-in-Residence program starting from the first day on campus. Career mentors advise students throughout their years at Butler and assist in career exploration and internship/employment preparation. Students are required to complete a four-year, structured career development plan which requires that each student complete two internships for credit. By contrast, most business schools don't even require one internship as a graduation requirement. Students must receive stamps on a "passport" as they progress through the four-year program, which includes a variety of activities and requirements, such as cultural events, job fairs, alumni panels, mock interviews, resume writing workshops and more. A full-time staff in the CBA assists the students in locating the required internships which, more often than not, result in full-time employment upon graduation. Imagine the level of maturity and, to use a term of my father's, "work smarts" that this focus on Real Life develops in our graduates compared with other programs.

How You Can Become Involved with Real Life, Real Business at Butler's CBA

As you can see, the "real life, real business" curriculum provides our students with an extraordinary business education and a tangible, competitive advantage in the workplace.

But to make "real life, real business" work, we rely on the involvement of local companies and dedicated alumni to provide class projects, mentor students, participate in executive review boards (for the FBE and RBE business plans) and so much more. If you would like to participate in one of these classes, we would welcome your involvement. Please email me directly. I look forward to hearing from you.

Chuck Williams, Dean
College of Business