In the Spirit of Innovation
Devon Williams (now a senior at BGSU) pitches her idea to potential investors.
The resources of a major comprehensive university combined with BGSU’s individualized student support drive business students’ success
From the exterior, the building in the central campus looks much the same as it has for decades, but what takes place inside BGSU’s College of Business Administration (CBA) has been undergoing a significant transformation.
Someone left a metaphorical window open, and the spirit of innovation, pushed by the winds of change, has shaped BGSU’s CBA into an incubator where business isn’t just taught – it is examined, dissected, analyzed, reviewed, synthesized and experienced. It is now very much a center of discovery, creative advancements and collaborative learning.
The college captures the hallmark Bowling Green State University experience of providing individualized attention for students combined with opportunities that can only be found at a major comprehensive university.
“BGSU is the perfect combination of innovation and wide- reaching opportunities where your professors, advisors and even the dean know who you are and who you want to be,” said Matthew Maurer, a 2006 graduate who is the director of innovation and growth strategies at Reynolds Consumer Products in Chicago. “The College of Business Administration is centered on the individual development of each student to create the next generation of business leaders.”
The college is nationally ranked as one of the best business programs by U.S. News and World Report, the Princeton Review and Bloomberg Businessweek. Bowling Green is among the top 2 percent of universities worldwide that are accredited in both business and accounting, with the BG accounting program ranked No. 1 in Ohio by Bloomberg.
A culture of engagement
Inside its walls, the CBA of 2016 is about the business of shaping students’ futures and equipping them to meet the demands and challenges of the global marketplace. For Dean Ray Braun, a 1980 graduate who has spent most of his career in the business realm, creative and innovative education within a culture of engagement and caring are the foundational elements in preparing the business leaders of tomorrow.
Engaging BGSU business students starts months before they arrive on campus when they are contacted by peer leaders. Once freshmen arrive on campus, student ambassadors encourage involvement in a multitude of events. There are regular meetings with advisors, internship and study-abroad opportunities and the Business Career Accelerator office which specializes in assisting students with finding the best job opportunities.
The annual Women in Leadership event focuses on helping women to navigate the workplace and overcome obstacles while seeking out opportunities. There are also annual symposiums such as Best Practices in Business Analytics, and an Entrepreneurship Week, which is highlighted by The Hatch competition and the Sebo Series in Entrepreneurship.
Students also participate in a series of workshops hosted by the dean and other college leaders that merge the unconventional with the amazingly practical, covering job interviews, business dining etiquette, and what to expect at a corporate golf outing.
“The workshops cover topics that are not easily teachable in a traditional class and show how the college cares about your overall development,” said recent graduate Trevor Bischoff ’14. “They ease the transition from campus to the business world.”
Some of the most innovative elements of the wide-spectrum education being offered by the College of Business Administration take place outside of the building. Literally and figuratively, the place can’t contain everything.
The Hatch is a specialty event that gives BGSU students from all majors the opportunity to launch new business ventures, assisted by an alumni mentor, and pitch their business concept to alumni investors. It brings the format of the popular television show “Shark Tank” to campus.
The Hatch, which has injected nearly $500,000 into student startups, has the performance pressure of real business, with a rigorous program that runs from January through the actual competition day in early April.
“The Hatch is unique, and we are one of the only institutions awarding real money,” said Kirk Kern, director of the Dallas-Hamilton Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, recognized as the region’s premier resource for entrepreneurial education. “Additionally, The Hatch drives innovation across campus as students from all majors are supported in their entrepreneurial efforts.”
Elsa Vogel ‘15, a senior graphic design major who competed in last year’s Hatch, won over the investors with her “Pieces of Me” web-based program that allows women to express themselves by creating clothing patterns based on their personality traits. Vogel is now chasing her entrepreneurial dream.
Responding to a changing marketplace
In addition to the creative use of workshops and large special events, the College of Business Administration also has retooled, reworked and revamped its internal components during recent years to ensure resources for students.
The trading lab houses Bloomberg terminals that can be used to make actual trades. The business analytics and intelligence specialization is innovating within the classroom, and there is also a collaborative program that links BGSU faculty with a university in China and brings students from China to campus for their final year to complete their education in that specialty.
“Analytics is a growing field, and many of our students here are specializing in something else and then adding in these technical skills,” said Dr. Richard “Herb” McGrath, associate dean for graduate studies and administration. “And there is considerable demand for people with that type of training, so those students don’t have any difficulty finding positions.”
McGrath said the college also has “taken a big step away from the traditional model” with its active learning classrooms that can provide support for individualized student learning and support. The tables and chairs move around, there is an abundance of whiteboard space and some content is delivered outside the classroom.
“So when the student comes to class, it is not as much content delivery but more going deeper into the material,” McGrath said. “It is bringing everyone into the participation aspect. It is part of our whole philosophy of experiential learning and interactive classrooms, and it is permeating throughout the curriculum.”
McGrath said the CBA accounting program, which is rated No. 1 in Ohio and in the top 5 percent in the world, uses a multi-year simulation model that allows students to make the decisions and simulate running a business while mapping their progress. In order to meet an anticipated spike in the need for specialists in the insurance industry, the CBA also has added an insurance specialization minor.
“We started this program in order to get out in front of that need,” McGrath said. “There is a whole field of careers out there, and we expect to attract students to this specialty.”
BGSU also stretches those college walls with its Supply Chain Management Institute, which connects students with more real-world experience through projects and internships that are rich in networking opportunities. Students develop interpersonal and networking skills, learn about specific companies, and in some cases do problem solving on real company projects, Hartley said.
As the College of Business Administration surges into new methods to further enhance its broad-based and innovative 21st century approach to preparing students for careers in the global business arena, Braun sees the ceilings and walls of his 1970s-era structure as the only significant limiting factors. The sky will be the limit with plans that are underway to create a new home for the College of Business Administration.
“Because we have these really special programs here, and we do many special things to support each student’s development, we need facilities to better support it,” he said. “We need a new building. We can’t put the technology we need in this building. We don’t have the open space we need, or the classroom structures so we can teach a business class like a business meeting.”
In the bottom-line business of producing talented, skilled and universally prepared business graduates, the results have a certain glow about them. More than 85 percent of the CBA students complete a full-time internship while at BGSU, and many of those lead to employment. Nearly 90 percent of the students have a job when they graduate, or have pending interviews.
“Those figures are critical, because if we’re not doing the right things to fully develop our students and get those students jobs, then we are absolutely failing them,” said Tom Siebenaler, who leads the Business Career Accelerator office.
“The vast majority of our students say they came here in order to get a good job, so we as a university need to innovate to make certain they are prepared and in a position to connect with that job. That is the driving force for me, and for all of us.”
Jim Adams, vice president of finance at Owens-Illinois, a Fortune 500 company and a world leader in the manufacture of glass containers and packaging products, said the pipeline to BGSU graduates has been a very productive one for O-I.
“We have a long history of recruiting from Bowling Green, and in recent years the quality of the students has improved dramatically,” Adams said. “The number of Bowling Green students we are bringing in for full-time jobs and for internships has increased. We are very engaged with the college, and it has been very beneficial for us.”
Marjorie Rose Williams, who will graduate in May 2016 with a specialty in supply chain management and marketing, said the College of Business Administration positioned her on a successful track with caring faculty who made sure she was successful. One of three internships she completed was with Toyota, and the automotive manufacturing leader has offered her a post as a purchasing specialist following graduation.
“I had a lot of opportunities because of all the amazing resources available through the college. The classes gave me a great foundation, and all the individualized attention with the internships, the mock interviews, the resume reviews, the workshops and the career accelerator; it was like a dress rehearsal for everything,” she said. “The CBA exposed me to a lot of things I hadn’t thought about, and those turned out to be very important in preparing me for the business world.”
“Other than my dad, Lee is one of the most important mentors I ever had,” he said. “His presence is a defining measure in my life, and not just at BGSU. He and Marge attended our wedding and are part of our family.”
“I love working with college students as they have continued to make me think for the last 41 years that I am 29 years old, like I was in the fall of 1973 when I arrived at BGSU,” said Meserve, who has received every teaching honor awarded by BGSU. “I recall several times in my own educational pathway when I questioned my direction in life, and there were faculty and staff members who helped me answer those questions. It has always been a pleasure serving in that helping role myself. Marge and I go to weddings, receive announcements of births, and are welcomed into homes across the country because of the students who have touched, and continue to touch, our lives.”
If Meserve’s influence wasn’t already extraordinary, consider the additional financial support he and Marge provide to BGSU students. They are inaugural Champions Circle donors, annually contributing the equivalent of one year’s tuition and fees to help an individual student-athlete year after year. They have endowed the Meserve Scholarship, given to the senior male and female student-athletes of the year. In 2013, the couple made a transformational $1 million gift that touches future generations of student-athletes, the Department of Biological Sciences and the Meserve Softball Field.