Earlier this year, a steady stream of business leaders traded a few hours at the office and personal time in the evening to talk with students enrolled in the first round of new courses addressing entrepreneurship and e-commerce at the Fisher College of Business.
The courses were designed last fall to provide students at The Ohio State University business college with a concentration of studies that focuses on the unique skill sets needed for todays rapidly evolving Internet-based economy.
We have long offered courses providing skills in systems design, marketing and logistics and other elements that have a role in todays e-commerce economy, says Michelle Jacobson, director of the graduate programs office at Fisher College. Our goal in developing this new cluster was to bring together the technology and business principles that speak specifically to todays entrepreneurial e-commerce environment.
Fifty-five MBA students and a select set of doctoral students from industrial design, engineering, computer science and education took Curtis Haugtvedts e-commerce marketing course. Haugtvedt is an associate professor of marketing and psychology with a background in social and consumer psychology.
The mix of academic backgrounds and diverse practical experiences provided important perspectives in the classroom discussion.
In e-commerce, you are talking to people in industrial design, computer science, marketing research, advertising, etc. Its truly interdisciplinary, not just marketing and business administration, Haugtvedt says.
Understanding the cultures of different disciplines and consumer segments is critical for success in e-business, he says. Students examined existing business models, conducted extensive analyses of existing dot-coms and developed proposals for new dot-coms.
Because e-commerce develops at a very fast pace, textbooks and cases do not capture the full range of issues involved, Haugtvedt says. So he also drew on the expertise in the Columbus business community.
I had no trouble finding speakers who could bring real-world experience to the classroom, he says. No one that I asked to speak turned me down, and all did a terrific job in relating the challenges of e-business and helping to reinforce the view that Columbus has a strong and growing presence in e-business ventures.
Those who came didnt just pop in and out, either. Although the class officially ended at 10 p.m., many nights, Haugtvedt, students and speakers didnt leave until 11:30 p.m., continuing energetic discussions launched by classroom topics. Business leaders who spoke included Dan Stanek, RPAWorldwide.com; representatives from DrugEmporium.com; Wil Schroter, NGDA Interactive Advertising; Todd Ritterbusch of the Columbus Technology Leadership Council; Marty Gage, SonicRim.com; Beth Sibbring, CompuServe Commerce; Mark Spencer, SubmitOrder.com; Internet attorney Robert Ellis; and Jonathan York, fourthchannel.com.
The result was an exchange of ideas, information, and, for the students, resumes.
A central message brought by all the speakers is that they need good people, Haugtvedt says. This proved to be an excellent opportunity for business leaders to interact with the talented students in the Ohio State programs and to see firsthand what Ohio State has to offer.
By coming into the classroom, the business community can see what the students are doing, says Sharon Alvarez, visiting assistant professor., It gives the students a valuable opportunity to network.
Alvarez taught an undergraduate-level entrepreneurship class in the fall and a graduate-level course this spring. Enrollment for the masters degree in business administration course is limited to 40; another 20 are on a waiting list.
Ora Smith, president of the Science and Technology Campus Corp. at Ohio State, and George Foster, founder of Foster Technology Corp., were among those speaking in Alvarezs fall class. Members of the Columbus Chamber of Commerce served as judges for her students business plans.
They were blown away by how good those presentations were, Alvarez says. Not only do the students get the opportunity to interact with the business community, but the community gets to see the caliber of work that our students do here.
Steve Buser, professor of finance, called on venture capitalists to speak with students enrolled in his new class, The Market for Private Equity. Among his presenters was Peter Cohen, managing partner of Ramius Capital of New York, who spoke about the strategies and pitfalls for private equity deals.
Other new courses this spring included one taught by Oded Shenkar, professor of management and human resources and Ford Motor Co. Designated Chair in Global Business, on the use of e-commerce to help small firms globalize operations. Another, taught by Waleed Muhanna, associate professor of accounting and MIS, provided an understanding of the opportunities, potential threats and important business issues in e-commerce and emerging technologies environments.
The students course work doesnt necessarily end with the final exam. Haugtvedt has students from his MBA course who plan to continue to work with him on specific topics through independent study. He also offered an honors undergraduate e-marketing course this spring.
Haugtvedt says student-faculty interaction not only increases the students skills and confidence, but also leads to new research findings, which in turn brings new applications to the marketplace through interactions with practitioners and publications in academic journals.
I think its something to brag about that our faculty hase been so responsive to our students, to work with them after a particular class ends, so that the students can move on to a higher level of understanding and application. Our faculty has been incredibly responsive in both launching these new courses and encouraging continued student interest, Jacobson said.
While the course schedule has not been finalized, the school expects to offer these courses again in the coming academic year. Due to the popularity of the courses, Jacobson says, currently enrolled graduate students, particularly those pursuing masters degrees in business administration, will have priority in scheduling. Nonbusiness majors may register with instructor permission when space is available.
For more information, contact the Fisher College of Business Graduate Programs Office, (614) 292-8511, and ask for Jacobson or Katherine Rath, assistant director for MBA programs. Information provided by Anna Rzewnicki, media relations coordinator for development and external affairs at the Fisher College of Business.