Lerner Freshmen Work With Local Companies in Business 110 Course

It doesn’t take long for new students at the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics to get hands-on experience working with actual business clients.

The Basics of Business course coordinated by Professor of Marketing Julia Bayuk, (or BUAD 110 in the course catalog) offers first-year business students a thorough initiation to concepts from accounting to operations, marketing and much more. Students are also matched with a local organization (for-profit or nonprofit) and tasked with understanding the organization, the industry, the stakeholders and more. Using research, they present recommendations to their organization for how to effectively approach the problem or research questions.

With more than 700 students taking the course each year, divided into 20 or so different sections (each with its own instructor and teaching assistant), that presents a lot of willing minds to partner with the companies. This fall, 44 companies participated in the program.

“I’m so excited about this part of the course,” said adjunct faculty member Cynthia Conway, one of the instructors. “For the first two-thirds of the semester, they’ve been learning about all the fundamentals … they’re now going to be able to apply all that they’ve learned with a real client, a real business problem, and a real deadline.”

The most important benefit is that students can develop soft skills, she said, like professionalism, relationship building, establishing trust, project management, strategic decision making, teamwork and communications.

Here are just three of the companies that participated this year.

Roja & Verde Taqueria, Newark

This Mexican restaurant owned by Greg Vogeley recently opened next door to another of his sites, the popular brunch spot Drip Cafe. Students investigated ways to grow the new restaurant’s reach.

“Being on North College Avenue, there’s plenty of students that walk by on a regular basis,” Vogeley said. “But outside of that, we need to figure out how to attract yearlong customers.”

Working with students seemed like a great opportunity, he said. “I love talking with and working with young entrepreneurs and young business people.”

First year marketing student Rachel Robbins, who helped on this project, found some of her assumptions challenged.

“It surprised me how different it is to run this business versus (Vogeley’s) other business, Drip Cafe,” Robbins said. “Because you would think because they’re right next to each other it’d be relatively similar, but there’s just a lot of differences that I wouldn’t have seen coming.”

Casey Paproth, freshman finance and financial planning and wealth management double major, said he learned how difficult it can be to come up with new and unconventional marketing ideas to branch out a business.

W.L. Gore and Associates, Newark

A much larger and longer established company, Newark’s Gore manufactures a range of electrical components, medical products and much more, including the GORE-TEX fabric beloved of hikers, campers and hunters for its ability to keep out rain and wind.

The business students weren’t experts on high-tech fabrics, but they offered insights on a topic they were more familiar with: interns. They researched how to attract top talent to Gore’s internships and improve the experience for both the students and organization.

In the process, they also learned about working together.

“In high school, I didn’t really like working groups, because I felt like all the work would fall on me,” said Elise Curran, freshman sports management major. “But working with everyone in my group, I felt like we all did our part, and it made the project a lot more enjoyable.”

Cavan Marsden, a first year accounting and finance major, picked up insight on internships from their research, and how key a good fit with a student’s location can be. “Even if you have a job that you love, sometimes commute time and having to wake up earlier … can really break how much you enjoy it.”

Instructor Minda Watson, assistant director of Lerner’s Career Services Center, said the project is a great opportunity for the students to work with clients and get experience with public speaking, as well as bolstering their resumes.

“I’m so proud of them and I cannot wait to see what they do in the future,” she said.

CAFE (Center for Accelerating Financial Equity)

This nonprofit organization promotes the use of financial technology to offer greater economic opportunities to groups often left behind, like those with low incomes. Managing Director Kristen Castell said they offer coaching to startup fintech programs and help connect them with funders, banks, and other institutions.

She said she was excited to partner with talented students from UD.

Students helped look into multiple points of interest, she said. They investigated to find out what specific challenges people are facing with their financial situations, as well as what products and services are offered by financial organizations and startup fintech entrepreneurs.

“University of Delaware students are really important to … how we build out our main mission in CAFE,” Castell said.

This background research made an impression on Veda Dadi, a freshman majoring in finance. “I learned a lot about having to do a lot of research (into) competitors in the field, and why that’s important on how you diversify your product in the market,” she said. “And I think that’s made me more aware of the work that goes into developing and starting a business.”

Bayuk said it’s exciting to see organizations return year after year to take part in this program, and that the organizations have made use of the student recommendations, whether that’s launching a new social media strategy, creating marketing materials or developing new programs.

It’s been amazing, she said, to see organizations so impressed with the freshmen and their accomplishments that several freshmen each year get internship offers from the organizations they worked with.

“Over the years that we’ve done this project … it’s been really neat to see the impact that students have had on these different companies, and in turn, the impact that the organizations and these opportunities have on the students.”

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