Millikin University's Tabor School of Business offers opportunities for undergrads to engage in research projects and interact with real clients. Senior students benefited from those opportunities during Millikin's first Business Strategic Plan Competition held on March 30.
As part of the competition, two teams of students presented business strategies aimed to help local-based companies. Students from Millikin University's MBA cohort and Tabor School of Business Faculty members were on hand to judge the competition and provide feedback.
The first team included: Catherine Hixson, a business management major from Monticello, Ill., Cody Rios, a business management major from Bristol, Ill., Mariana Weber, a marketing major from Manchester, Mo., and Tiffany Couri, an accounting major from Decatur, Ill. The group presented a business strategy plan for a local newspaper company with aspirations of expanding its readership to additional cities in central Illinois.
The group provided details on the current trends of the newspaper industry, including online readership and digital advertising.
"I think experiences like this in which we are not just learning from a text book, but actually using the Millikin model of Performance Learning are extremely beneficial," said Mariana Weber. "To work with a local-based company, allows for us as students, to explore all aspects of business."
The team also developed a website and mobile site to help give their client an overview of digital advertising opportunities, and show the importance of online interaction.
Weber added, "Whether it's developing a website or looking at the logistics of the business, this allows us to be creatively comprehensive and ready for our careers with the confidence that we have done similar things and can succeed. It was definitely rewarding to present to many faculty who have worked with us from freshman to senior year, and show them our growth, both as business professionals and as individuals."
The second team included: Ashley Knierim, a finance major from Decatur, Ill., Ellie Ehrat, an accounting major from Shobonier, Ill., Erin Baltazar, a marketing major form Naperville, Ill., Nicole Economou, a marketing major from Hanover Park, Ill., and Rachel Franz, a marketing major from Plainfield, Ill. The second team presented a business plan for a local information technology (IT) service and repair company.
The team emphasized the importance of marketing campaigns to help drive client growth, and to promote the two types of service the company offers: break/fix and managed service.
"Working with a local-based computer company was an eye-opening experience," said Ellie Ehrat. "In the professional world, you have to learn about companies that might not be your exact expertise. You can take the knowledge of business that you do have and be able to develop a strategic business plan."
Rachel Franz added, "Working with our client to prepare for the strategic plan competition was challenging, but gave us a real taste of conducting business meetings and creating high-quality proposals that create real, lasting results. The skills my team and I developed will carry on directly to our future career paths, and allow us to become the successful professionals we know we can be."
The presentations were the culmination of Millikin's Business Strategy senior capstone course, led by Dr. J. Mark Munoz, Millikin professor of international management. Both teams earned $500 awards for their efforts.
"The Business Strategy course is different because of the consulting aspect, involvement of mentors and the competitive context. The course provided the opportunity for Millikin University and the students to be actively engaged with the local community," said Dr. Munoz. "I believe that the strategic plans, if implemented, can help the companies. Seeing the students gain confidence during their presentations, especially in front of an MBA class, was very exciting."