Category: Undergraduate Studies

Marketing Undergrads Kick Off Promotional Video Project

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The VCU School of Business Department of Marketing is pleased to announce the kickoff of a promotional video project that will be conceptualized, planned, and executed by three undergraduate marketing students.

The video project is funded through the School of Business’ EPIC initiative. The three students, Sydney Weise, Wilson Tolbert, and Jacob Belvin, won the opportunity to work hand-in-hand with VCU University Relations on this project by winning a pitch competition amongst a pool of other marketing students.

The students will work through the end of May on the project and the promotional video will debut for the Department of Marketing in early June 2017.

Ben Jones (ECON’92) to Give VCU Business Undergraduate Commencement Address

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Alumnus Ben Jones will give the VCU School of Business Undergraduate Programs Commencement Address in a ceremony at the Siegel Center on Saturday, May 13.

Jones is the chief regulatory relations officer for Wells Fargo and serves in regulatory compliance risk management. His group is responsible for the RCRM enterprise regulatory coordination function and the RCRM Regulatory Resolution Management Office. Before joining Wells Fargo in 2014, Jones served as the head of regulatory affairs for Royal Bank of Scotland Group, Americas, for four years. Prior to that, he was the regulatory relations coordinator for Citigroup Global Compliance for five years. Jones began his career in 1992, when he joined the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond as a bank examiner, and was formally commissioned in 1997. He worked in a variety of areas, including bank examinations, surveillance and monitoring, and risk and policy, during his more than 14-year tenure with the Federal Reserve Bank.

He is based in San Francisco and earned his bachelor’s degree in economics, summa cum laude, from Virginia Commonwealth University.

For ceremony details, see business.vcu.edu/graduation

Creative competition hones students’ presentation skills

Featured photo [View Image]Contestants in the School of Business’ first Creative Communication Competition including, from front left, winners Vanesa Luis-Guerra, Tammie Goode and Sara Falzone.
You won’t get very far with even the greatest idea if you can’t present it well. That’s the thinking behind Creative Communication by Design, one of the original winners of the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business’ EPIC Challenge.

This year, Creative Communication by Design launched its own challenge for students — the Creative Communication Competition. On Feb. 3, 15 School of Business students competed for cash prizes by presenting on everything from fuel cells and whiskey to 401(k)s and tattoos.The event was a pilot for what the team hopes will become a larger, annual event, said team member Shannon Mitchell.“The Creative Communication by Design team develops School of Business graduates to be great creative problem solvers who can sell their ideas to investors, colleagues, clients and customers,” she said.

Contestants in the competition all completed the School of Business’ Winning Presentations — a course in which professional actors teach business students techniques to improve their communication and presentation skills. The friendly competition gives these students a venue to hone their skills after leaving the course while generating a common understanding of what a great presentation looks like among students and faculty. It further develops VCU business students as excellent presenters.

Interested students first submitted a one-paragraph description of their topic. After an initial screening, they received one-on-one coaching from Marisa Guida, course coordinator for Winning Presentations. Students whose skills were not competitive were not permitted to go forward.

Tammie Goode, a junior marketing major, won the prize for best overall presentation for “Qatar Leadership Exchange.”

Marketing senior Vanesa Luis-Guerra presented “VCU Backpacking Abroad Program,” which won the award for the most persuasive presentation.

Sara Falzone’s “Stuck at the Sunflower Table” earned the senior marketing major the award for best use of story in a speech.

Judging the competition were Alison Linas, assistant commonwealth’s attorney for Hanover County; Ryann Lofchie, chairwoman of The Frontier Project Group of Companies and CEO of Frontier Academy; Suzanne C. Makarem, Ph.D., associate professor of marketing; Regina Nguyen, director of marketing and property manager for SugarOak Management; S. Douglas Pugh, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of the Department of Management; and Sammy Santosh, account manager of Torx Media.

Creative Communication by Design comprises Mitchell, Guida, Laurel Adams and Sam Seeley from the School of Business and Aaron Anderson and David Leong from the School of the Arts.

In addition to coaching students on writing and presentation skills, the Creative Communication by Design team proposes developing capacity of faculty members to inspire creativity in their students and elicit great communication skills, and continuing field research on best practices in business communication to bring the results back to the classroom.

What could you create with spare change, some sticky notes and an abundance of VCU pride? The possibilities are endless

Featured photo [View Image]Day 3 of the challenge called for participants to create something using or inspired by Sticky Notes.

One day, long before the VCU School of Business enacted its EPIC strategic plan to promote creativity, Ken Kahn, senior associate dean, gave a light bulb — the symbol of ideas — to every faculty and staff member. It was a reminder that sometimes constraints kill ideas before they’re ever born and so faculty and staff should remain vigilant.

Suzanne C. Makarem, Ph.D., associate professor of marketing, and the 2016–2017 creativity czar, turned her light bulb into a necklace Feb. 10 to show her VCU School of Business pride. She did this on the final day of the school’s recent Creative Sprint, a 10-day challenge where faculty, staff and students were encouraged to create something different each day.

As czar, Makarem collaborated with a handful of colleagues to create each day’s challenge. Unlike a similar 30-day sprint held in the fall, this one was School of Business-centric.

“The 30-day one was done for the whole nation, everyone could participate,” she said. “This one was specific to the School of Business … we tried to link it a little bit to the way we think about things. And we tried to spread the word more and make it only 10 days.”

Day 1: Make something that fits into the palm of your hand using the materials in your immediate environment
Day 2: Make something with or inspired by coins, any coins you can get your hands on
Day 3: Make something using or inspired by Sticky Notes
Day 4 : Make something inspired by a graph or chart
Day 5: Start something and have someone else finish it
Day 6: Find a creative way to pay someone a compliment or say “thank you!”
Day 7: Make something inspired by a business hero or the person who inspired you to join the business school
Day 8: Make something and leave it for someone else to discover
Day 9: Have someone teach you something you don’t know and do it
Day 10: Make something that shows your VCU School of Business pride

The group added incentives, such as prizes each day, and created a Facebook page where participants could post their creations.

“We made it more collaborative,” Makarem said.

About 200 people joined the Facebook group. Some participated all 10 days, but others could pick which days they wanted to contribute based on the task. A table was set up in the Snead Hall atrium for one hour every day to remind passersby of the sprint and give them a place to create.

“People would come to the table and say, ‘Oh this is so cool,’” Makarem said. “Even the ones who didn’t create were like, ‘Oh, it’s so cool that we’re doing this.’”

Prizewinners were selected randomly — an important distinction to Makarem.

“It wasn’t based on judging the work,” she said. “And that’s what creativity is all about, putting ideas out there and not being shut down. So there was no prize based on judging what you did. It was just random.

In the midst of all that creativity is fun.

“Seeing everybody’s creations was just fun and one of the comments I kept getting was ‘this is fun.’ It’s part of our culture. It is creating that culture and environment of creativity and also training our brain, but in the midst of all that creativity is fun. And when you do what you do while having fun, that’s when you’re the best at it.”

Examples of art, design are everywhere, says 2016 Executive-in-Residence

Craig Dubitsky, founder and CEO of Hello Products, models a 1970s Panasonic R72 wearable radio while speaking to a marketing class at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business.<br>Photos by Pat Kane, University Public Affairs [View Image]Craig Dubitsky, founder and CEO of Hello Products, models a 1970s Panasonic R72 wearable radio while speaking to a marketing class at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business. Photos by Pat Kane, University Public Affairs

Red exit signs drive Craig Dubitsky nuts.

“What do you do when you see the color red? Stop. If there were a fire, would you want to stop?” asked Dubitsky, the VCU School of Business 2016 executive-in-residence. “It kills me. It drives me crazy. My level of agitation with these things is what’s driven me.”

Dubitsky, founder and CEO of Hello Products, a line of friendly, natural oral health care products, sees the design of everything, everywhere.

There is no such thing as a boring category, he said. People care about everything. In his case, it’s exit signs.

“Politics isn’t boring,” he said. “We care about everything. If you care about it how can it be boring? Everything is art. Life imitates art. Let’s create the art we want in our everyday lives. … You’ve got to make whatever you’re working on look awesome. If it isn’t cultural, emotional, economically relevant, it’s not innovative. If no one [cares], it doesn’t matter.”

Everything is art. Life imitates art.

People need to feel something, he stressed. If creatives don’t feel something first, how can they expect anyone else to feel passionate about their products? What’s more, the bar is set low everywhere.

“Most things kind of suck,” Dubitsky said.

The good news is innovation and opportunities are hiding in plain site.

Take the oral health care industry. Dubitsky found it not only unfriendly but downright offensive, with its aggressive marketing and packaging that promises to kill, eliminate and destroy odor, germs and bacteria.

“I was like, WTF?” Dubitsky said, noting that the global icon for good oral health is an extracted tooth. “Where’s the function, freshness, fashion, flavor?”

So Dubitsky created Hello toothpaste, which tastes awesome and does the same job as harsher products, but with healthier ingredients.

“No one was doing that. No one’s made toothpaste you can eat,” he said before squeezing about two tablespoons of Hello’s fluoride-free paste into his mouth and eating it.

Hello Products was named one of the top challenger brands — small brands that disrupt bigger brands — two years in a row, by the Challenger Project. But Dubitsky doesn’t want to be a challenger, he wants to be a questioner: “Why the hell wasn’t it always like this?” he asked.

“Innovation is word that gets abused a lot,” Dubitsky said. “Most people think innovation is technical. To me innovation is creating something that people fall in love with. We’re winning on an emotional level. Its an emotional innovation.”

The key, he said, is cultural currency — knowing what people want before they do.

Prior to launching New Jersey-based Hello Products, Dubitsky disrupted the home products industry as a founding board member of green-cleaning upstart Method Products and created a sensation again as co-founder of lip and skincare maker eos Products.

He met the Method founders when they were just two guys making soap in their bathroom.

“Who ever thought soap could be cool?” he said.

Now, Method is a piece of art you use every day.

Hourigan and Stone Brewing Co. host VCU School of Business for inside look at massive new craft brewery

Henley tour [View Image]A group of the brightest minds at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business got an early look into one of the biggest economic development projects in Richmond in decades: Stone Brewing Co.’s East Coast production and distribution facility in the Greater Fulton community.

Eyeing future careers in business strategy and finance, the students tossed out questions about the business strategy, use of bonds, and of course the beer-brewing process to leaders at both Stone Brewing Co. and Hourigan Construction, which fast-tracked the 213,000-square-foot facility to suit the brewer’s needs in only 14 months.

The building was completed in February and its store and taproom opened late that month. Stone is expected to begin test brewing at the end of April.

The tour opened with an introduction to the facility from Juliellen Sarver, Stone community relations manager and resident of Greater Fulton, who provided the history of the city landing Stone Brewing Co., a contract that was announced in late 2014. Stone, as she and many others have noted, has been a shot in the arm for a community with a median household income of $17,000. Fulton has no bank, no grocery store, no pharmacy or other key community needs, she notes, but with Stone, that’s likely to change in coming years.

“Stone came here with reason, and that reason was to grow a community,” Hourigan client solutions manager Michael Henley told the assembled group of VCU students. The facility is expected to create more than 200 jobs, Sarver noted, and is already drumming up economic development studies and further interest in growth in the area.

Henley and Sarver fielded questions from students ranging from the strategies behind the construction of the facility (built to suit the needs of Stone, which made tenant improvements and will lease the facility for 25 years with the option to purchase), the $60 million worth of equipment inside it (owned by Stone), to the piping throughout the massive facility. As construction manager, Hourigan also worked closely with Stone’s own engineers to build a facility that could grow over time and fill craft beer demand for decades to come. Stone will ship its brews up and down the east coast, Canada, and as far west as the Rocky Mountains through this Richmond based facility.

Hourigan is a regional construction company based in Richmond, Virginia, that is both active in the community and a strong supporter of Virginia universities.

For the VCU students, the Stone Brewing Co. project represents a unique opportunity to learn about:

  • the impact of a construction and economic development project on a community;
  • the business strategy and culture that the West Coast based brewery brings East;
  • and the technical requirements to create a complex industrial and process engineering facility.

Through Hourigan’s relationship with VCU School of Business professor Bob Kelley, the event was a perfect opportunity to showcase a high-profile project, and a business, Stone Brewing Co., which experienced 78 percent growth in 2013 before deciding to open a new facility.

“Our approach to education is that we must not only build facilities that create incredible learning environments for students, but also get the people of Hourigan out into the world and get hands-on with the leaders of tomorrow,” said Mark Hourigan, president of Hourigan Construction, which actively recruits engineering and construction students from many of the great universities in the state and other regional schools.

“Our students thoroughly enjoyed an early inside peek at the operations and have a deeper respect for the business, engineering, and construction decisions that went into the operation,” says Kelley, the VCU School of Business professor. “The facility is beautiful, and what Stone and Hourigan have created is exciting for Richmond. We loved seeing a construction project come to life.”

Thanks to Hourigan for the tour and for sharing this article!

Student team shines at YOUniversity competition

cache-9016-0x0 [View Image]For the second year in a row, a team of Virginia Commonwealth University students reached the finals of the Duff & Phelps YOUniversity Deal Challenge.

Conrad Roos, Shayan Dareikia and Ishan Bose formed this year’s team. Faculty adviser Cory Bunting, director of the Capital Markets Center in the School of Business, accompanied the students earlier this semester to New York City, where they delivered their presentation before the panel of judges.

Each team was assigned a company, for which they had to come up with a strategic and financial buyer. Having researched potential buyers and determined the company’s worth, the VCU team’s collaborative final project consisted of a slide deck of market research on its client. It included competing companies, evaluation and analysis of television ratings, along with a strategy to address the growth in online media viewing.

The VCU presentation placed second in the competition and each student received $2,000 in scholarship money.

“Overall it was an invaluable experience,” said Roos, a junior studying chemical engineering in the School of Engineering. “Besides the practice gained through valuing the companies and preparing the slide deck, presenting in front of the firm’s management was a unique experience that really drove home the value of preparation.”

Subscribe for free to the weekly VCU News email newsletter at http://newsletter.news.vcu.edu/ and receive a selection of stories, videos, photos, news clips and event listings in your inbox every Thursday.

VCU Business Student, Michael G. Kiflezghi earns Black History in the Making award

Congratulations to our very own Michael G. Kiflezghi, a VCU School of Business student pursuing a dual-degree in Information Systems and Bioinformatics. Michael received the Black History in the Making award from the Department of African American Studies at VCU and is currently a semifinalist for a Fulbright scholarship.

Michael shared, “I transferred from Northern Virginia Community College to matriculate into the Information Systems (IS) degree at VCU. After a year in the IS department, I discovered another passion: molecular biology. I decided that I’d pursue both fields in the form of a dual degree in IS and Bioinformatics.

I was subsequently accepted into the Initiative for Maximizing Student Development research training program (IMSD). During my time at VCU, I’ve had the pleasure of attending the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students three times and the Gerontological Society of America’s Annual Scientific Meeting once. I also spent a summer at the University of Oregon conducting research as part of an undergraduate research training program.

Through the help and guidance of the Honors College I applied for and became a semifinalist for a Fulbright to spend a year working under Dame Linda Partridge at the Max Planck Institute for the Biology of Aging. It’s my goal to research the biology of aging after undergrad in the form of a Ph.D. Being at VCU has literally changed the course of my life and opened so many doors for me allowing me to gain valuable research experience and business/IT knowledge through Bioinformatics and IS.”

Current student and alumnus team up on web portal for doctors

Congratulations to alumnus Fadi Muhsen and current student Umair Awan for their achievements abroad and recognition by Entrepreneur.com. The pair created Doxunity, a web portal dedicated to doctors. The portal currently has close to 130 users from the GCC, North African nations, Iran and Lebanon. During their years at VCU Business, the duo paid close attention to the tech and startup spaces, attended events, and even reached out to CEOs for guidance and tips. Muhsen completed a BS in Applied Economics with a concentration in Business and Finance, while Awan is currently pursuing his BS in Information Technology. Read more 

Strengthening the herd: School of Business program connects students and mentors

Strengthening the herd: School of Business program connects students and mentors

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By Anthony Langley

“I’ve always believed that when we meet new people we learn from their lives, and when we add that to our experiences, we move forward and become better,” says Rita Saleem, a senior studying in the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business.

In her final year at VCU, she signed up to for the CONNECT mentoring program (formerly Ram to Ram), where she was paired with a mentor in her field of study, human resources. The only thing she regrets about joining CONNECT is that she didn’t do it sooner.

The business school’s mentoring program provides a way for students to cultivate professional relationships with alumni and friends of the university before they enter the workplace. Students and their mentors connect in a variety of ways, including attending professional events, talking by phone and exchanging emails. Mentors provide valuable resume and interview critiques along with information to help students attain their career goals.

The program, started in 2010, operates through a partnership between the VCU Business Alumni Society and the school’s Office of Student and Alumni Engagement. The mentoring program is one of two ways that students and professionals can engage with each other in a one-on-one setting. The second program, EXPLORE, pairs students with volunteers for informational interviews, where students can research, through conversation, different career paths. Both CONNECT and EXPLORE have grown significantly in the past few years, as more students, like Saleem, recognize the value of connecting with alumni. This year, CONNECT had 105 mentors and 111 students participate.

“No matter how old you are, I think it’s good to have a mentor,” says Hamilton Bryan (B.S.’13/B), a customer service administrator for Porvair Filtration Group Ltd. in Ashland, Virginia.

Bryan enrolled in the School of Business as an adult after being in the workforce for many years. Though he was initially worried about the transition from professional to student, he credits the faculty at the school for removing any doubts he had.

“There’s really a concerted effort from everyone there to make sure that you succeed,” he says. “When I found out about [CONNECT], I thought this would be another opportunity to help someone else.”

Bryan, who’s in his second year as a CONNECT mentor, says he emphasizes to students the importance of setting goals and working toward them. Teaching students to think first and understand the action they’re about to take, instead of charging head in, makes all the difference in both life and their professional careers, he says.

The program is about providing support as students prepare to make their transition from school to career, he adds. “It shows students that there are people that are here for you, that you can come to, that have something to offer.”

Local consultant Nancie Wingo also serves as a mentor for CONNECT and says networking and making professional connections before entering the workplace is the key to opening up new doors for students. While not a VCU graduate, Wingo is among a growing number of local business professionals eager to support the business school and its students.

“I’m a huge supporter and fan of VCU, and I credit [VCU] for a lot of the positive things going on in Richmond,” Wingo says. “I jumped at the chance to be a mentor. It’s a great program for everyone involved.”

Though it is her first year with the program, for her, mentoring a student is very similar to her work as a professional coach. In her business, Wingo Coaching, she works collaboratively with her clients to create a plan of action and achieve results.

“I believed I had something to contribute,” she says. CONNECT “gave me the opportunity to work with a student and help them create or improve their own plans to get them where they want to be professionally.”

Wingo was paired with Saleem, who serves as president of SHRM@VCU and was looking for a way to gain real-world experience in human resources instead of just reading about it in textbooks. During her time with Wingo, Saleem honed her interviewing skills, realized the importance of networking and outlined the steps she needs to take to reach her career goals.

“We shared the ways we go about achieving goals,” Saleem says. “Even though we work differently, I think we both found new ways to try and accomplish things.”

Wingo agrees and says she, too, benefited from the mentoring process.

“We’re from different generations, we have different experiences, and I can learn just as much from her as she can from me,” she says.

For both Bryan and Wingo, CONNECT gave them the chance to share their experiences and skills with students preparing to enter the workforce. Both are enthusiastic about coming back for another year and are excited for the program’s future.

“I want [to mentor] more students,” Bryan says with a smile. “There are so many students who want to be a part of this. I’m just glad I can keep making these connections.”

To learn more about CONNECT and EXPLORE, or for more information on becoming a mentor, emailramtoram@vcu.edu or visit go.vcu.edu/ramtoram.

— Anthony Langley is a VCU senior majoring in mass communications.

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