» Business Students Testing Their Skills Outside the Classroom
Business students are trading in their textbooks for a briefcase as they test their knowledge in the real world. The college’s Center for Student Professional Development encourages this type of learning through a variety of internship programs and career preparation programs. But business faculty in the college are taking it one step further by embedding these experiential learning components into their course syllabi and extending their classrooms into the business community.
Accountants in Action
Dr. Gary Bridges, senior lecturer in accounting, wanted to enrich the curriculum for accounting students who were unable to participate in a traditional internship program. Beginning in the spring of 2008, Bridges piloted the course Experiential Learning Lab in Accounting. The class consists of six weeks of instruction in utilizing the most prevalent accounting software, followed by eight weeks of small business client interactions.
The course pairs upper-level accounting students with small business owners who need training and consulting in accounting. Bridges partnered with the university’s Small Business Development Center and the regional Minority Business Council to find a client base for his students.
“For many students, this client contact was their first incursion into the real world of business,” said Bridges. “We are significantly enhancing the accounting educational experience while providing a valuable service to an important segment of our community.”
Working as consultants, the students provide assistance with accounting software installation and tutoring, and trouble shoot a variety of accounting problems, including bank reconciliations, vendor issues, receivables and payables accounting, and preparation of financial statements.
“This experience taught me how to be independent,” said Betty Dean, a senior majoring in accounting and finance. “After studying the Quickbooks application, I learned how to apply the accounting principles from my coursework
to a real business. It was a hands-on experience that was invaluable to my education.”
Planning Down to the Tee
Marketing students in Dr. David Bojanic’s Meeting and Event Planning class gained hands-on experience in the event planning industry working for the PGA Tour at the Valero Texas Open.
The partnership began in spring 2008, when a team of marketing students developed a marketing plan to promote attendance for a younger demographic at the tournament. The next fall, Bojanic’s next class implemented the plan, and the partnership continued this spring.
“It is difficult to fully grasp the nature of the meeting and event planning industry by simply reading textbooks,” said Bojanic, the Anheuser-Busch Foundation Professor in Tourism Management. “Students see all of the work that goes into planning a meeting or event by working on a real project. The success of the program has led to it being highlighted by the PGA tour as one of their tournament best practices.”
Students benefit in the classroom, but also in the job market. Katie Mason, BBA ’08, one of the first students participating in the project, leveraged her experience into an internship position and ultimately a job as the sponsor/volunteer coordinator for the Valero Texas Open.
“The quality of the students’ work was great,” said Anthony Medina, account executive for Golf San Antonio and the Valero Texas Open. “Each class and student was engaged and excited to work with the tournament and the concert series. They brought their own personality and fresh perspective to the table.”
The Reality of Development
Students in faculty member Leland Rocchio’s capstone real estate development course gained in-depth experience in the real estate development process as part of a partnership project with the San Antonio South Texas Chapter of Certified Commercial Investment Members (CCIM).
Student teams were paired with professionals in the real estate development industry and were tasked with developing a comprehensive real estate development plan. The professionals provided students with resources such as demographic data, maps and financial modeling tools and mentored the students through the process.
“Students worked in teams to identify a parcel of property, identify the best use and develop a plan to bring the project to fruition,” said Rocchio, vice president of business development for Lyda Swinerton Builders.
The student teams were judged by top real estate leaders. The winners of the inaugural competition were senior real estate finance and development majors Andrew Brucks, Matt Dunn, Kevin McCarty and David Walch.
“The real estate development competition was not only an avenue to apply all of the previous training and class work throughout the entire program, but it was a great way for me to personally construct a development project,” said Walch.
Their project was the development of a mixed-use venture at the Legacy. The team received a $3,000 cash prize and will present their project at the annual CCIM Symposium.
“I was impressed by the students’ creative thinking and their analysis of the current marketplace,” said Laurie Griffith, competition judge and executive vice president at Texas Capital Bank. “It is invaluable for students to see all the moving parts that go into a project. The caliber of work from each of the teams was beyond my expectations for college students and particularly undergraduate students.”
Building a Company
Rather than just read about entrepreneurship, students in Dr. Anita Leffel’s entrepreneurship classes are challenged to become entrepreneurs and create their own businesses as part of the curriculum.
Leffel, senior lecturer in management, teaches classes in entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship. “The ultimate experiential learning event for an entrepreneurship student is to be involved with a start-up,” said Leffel. “They take the tools they have been given and create businesses.”
As part of the entrepreneurship class, students must form a company, write a business plan, develop an implementation strategy and marketing plan, present the plan to financiers for seed money, and start and run a successful business.
With more than 60 majors, a new focus of the entrepreneurship program has been on social entrepreneurship. Social entrepreneurship asks entrepreneurs to pursue a solution to a real social problem. Senior Davin Gutierrez accomplished just that goal this semester when he founded GRAFFITI Found, a social enterprise established to promote local artists and social awareness.
“We were trying to bridge the worlds of urban and fine art,” said Gutierrez, who is an entrepreneurship major and artist himself. You can do theory as much as you want, but you’ll never learn until you go out and do it for yourself. Business is tough; you always have to persevere. But it is easier to do something that you care about and that can help to make a difference.”
Another component of the entrepreneurship program is the annual New Technology Start-up Competition sponsored by the Center for Innovation and Technology Entrepreneurship. The competition, which pairs innovative technologies developed by engineering students with quality business plans developed by business entrepreneurship students, is hosted each semester to give students a hands-on opportunity to develop new technology ventures. Since the first competition in 2007, more than 125 students and 25 companies have participated in the project.
Jackie Davis, a 2009 entrepreneurship graduate, tied for first place in the spring tech competition. Her company, Solace Medical Technology, developed the Hot Box, a vein warming dilator that assists in blood draws. The device, which was originally engineered at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, was optioned to Solace Medical to develop the distribution and manufacturing of the product.
Davis, who is currently employed with Rackspace Hosting, credits her experience in the tech competition with her success today. “I learned to be resourceful and self-reliant,” she said. “As an entrepreneur you need to be dedicated to your company and performing to the best of your capabilities. While I’m uncertain of the future of Solace, I know that the knowledge I’ve gained from this experience will be with me always.”
Leffel relishes in the success of her students. “Entrepreneurship is not just about a business. We are teaching the spirit of entrepreneurship—human progress, development, achievement and change.”
UTSA College of Business
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San Antonio, Texas
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