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Wednesday, August 25, 2010 - SBA experiential learning programs equip students for success
When Andrew Cloutier started college at Oakland University, he took his studies one day at a time.

Since joining the School of Business Administration’s Applied Technology in Business program (ATiB), Cloutier has devoted thought and planning to today, tomorrow and the months to come. “In the professional world, you have to make sure you meet deadlines, and you’re on time and organized,” he said. “I can tell I’ve really matured.” 

Since joining the program, Cloutier has worked on a business project sponsored by Ancor Information Management Services.

“The biggest thing we’re seeing with employees coming out of college is it takes a little time to grasp real-world expectations,” said Ronald McGlinch, IT business manager for the Troy-based company. “In a classroom atmosphere, they’re learning theory. We get to mentor students before they graduate to give them a leg up on the competition.”

The ATiB program, a hallmark of the SBA since 1997, is just one way the SBA ensures students gain these valuable skills. By integrating experiential learning opportunities into the business curriculum, the program ensures that graduates are prepared to succeed on the job from day one.

“The SBA’s partnerships with sponsoring organizations allow students and organizations to gain value from experiential learning opportunities over time — systemizing the experience, the impact and the results,” explained Mohan Tanniru, dean of the SBA and founder of the ATiB.

Since he began his internship last fall, Cloutier has been part of a team to redesign a payment tracking system for online use. Though he found it daunting initially to juggle the internship with classes, Cloutier has now become more confident and organized. “I underestimated how much this would help me,” he continued.

“I learned a lot more than I would have just taking classes,” agreed Eric Mohan, MIS ‘10, who worked for Personal Design Systems (PDS), an independent entrepreneurial organization. “Now I realize I’m a lot better at programming than I am at network management.”

SBA students have other options for gaining experience as well. Through a unique summer internship program first introduced in 2009, students participate in a collective learning experience. The program groups students into small teams, along with a graduate student mentor, then connects them with a partner organization to work on a business project.

The students work on their projects, then the full group meets to share their knowledge and learn from other students. This group approach benefits the organization as it puts numerous minds on the task while allowing students to apply much-needed collaborative and team building skills.

“This cumulative work process allows a team to make a deeper impact in a shorter period of time,” Tanniru said.

Through the SBA’s CIBRE education programs, students gain real-world experience through more traditional internships and community projects as well. SBA senior Joseph Conigliaro screened and prepared low-income clients’ tax returns for the Accounting Aid Society through a community project. “I provided a service to people who were unable to afford to pay a professional to prepare their returns,” Conigliaro said.

As a marketing intern for Crittenton Hospital Medical Center, OU senior George Boulos developed a proposal to extend the hospital into the social marketing arena, putting the research, communication, presentation and implementation skills he learned in the classroom to work.

The Crittenton internship complemented the experience he gained as an intern with Oakland University Athletics, according to Boulos. “Athletics had a more relaxed and fun environment, while Crittenton offered a corporate experience,” he said. “It also gave me a sense of how different products and services are marketed based on the industry. Both internships gave me experience in working with a team, working individually, meeting deadlines and making formal presentations.”

Ultimately, SBA classroom principles — the importance of integrative thinking, experiential learning, and global understanding — help bolster companies while students gain valuable real-world experience through sponsored projects and internship experiences.

“Companies are struggling to be competitive; reduce cost, reposition themselves, diversify their base, launch new lines or simply go paperless,” Tanniru said. “We can help.”

Ancor’s McGlinch said these projects benefit all parties involved. “I’ve grown through Ancor’s partnership with the SBA. It’s not all about us mentoring the students. They taught me a few things. They taught me to get back to my core experience.”

Interacting with the interns allowed McGlinch to sharpen his analytical and mentoring skills. “It’s been an all-around positive experience.”

For more information about CIBRE's experiential learning programs, view the website.