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Summer camps promote relationships between SBA, business world and high school students

Monday, July 27, 2009
Summer camps promote relationships between SBA, business world and high school students

 IA campers working on a project

In business, relationships are critical.

That’s why the SBA’s Center for Integrated Business Research and Education (CIBRE) constantly works to connect business professionals, students and academicians to address and shape the future of business research and business education locally, regionally and globally.

One significant approach CIBRE employs is community outreach through two summer camp programs this year. While the camps focus on two very different subjects – entrepreneurship and general business – and different high school populations, both give area high school students opportunities to explore subjects of interest with help from OU students and local business representatives.

“We use community outreach not only to help teens, but to provide a vehicle where business executives and entrepreneurs in the community can interface with our faculty and students,” says Wayne Blizman, operations director of the SBA’s Entrepreneurship Institute.

The SBA’s Entrepreneurship Institute Camp, now in its eighth year, typically accommodates 20 to 25 economically disadvantaged high school juniors from Detroit and surrounding communities each year. Working with mentors from the business community and the SBA’s Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) organization, participants about two weeks living in OU’s residence halls while they explore the fundamentals of entrepreneurship. Those who complete the camp receive a $500 scholarship, along with the opportunity to receive more if they attend OU’s SBA after high school.

Working in teams with a mentor, camp participants learn about business plans before creating plans of their own. The students then present their ideas to a panel of judges in a competition to win additional scholarships. Participants also devote time to team-building exercises at Camp Tamarack in Ortonville and conduct a market research study trip at the Gibraltar Trade Center.

These experiences do more than teach participants about entrepreneurship, former SIFE president Brennon Edwards says. “Getting them to meet business leaders, having them question things around them: that’s what the focus of camp is, to open the students’ eyes to the world around them,” Edwards says.

This year’s SIFE mentors include an incoming OU freshman who recently approached SBA Dean Mohan Tanniru about getting involved in college activities. “It’s exciting to see individuals who are highly motivated like this individual,” Blizman says.

New this year at SBA is CIBRE’s International Academy, a summer camp program for top-caliber students from the International Academy in Bloomfield Hills. This camp helps high school students see the value of business knowledge, regardless of their career goals. Participating business representatives serve as mentors and presenters who bring students case studies and real-world business scenarios. “We really have to challenge these students,” Blizman says. “We put together a very creative program for them.”

Blizman says he enjoys witnessing the positive relationships CIBRE’s camps create with the outside business community. “When I sit down with the business executives, they can’t wait to participate,” he says. “It’s fun for them. It’s a good experience for everyone.”

By Flori Meeks