|by Howard Hewitt • June 8, 2012|
A group of Wabash students have remained on campus this summer to participate in the annual Summer Business Immersion Program. The students are part of an intense eight-week program that features speakers, case studies, and road trips to learn about entrepreneurship and all facets of business.
“We take 16 students with varying interest and levels of interaction to business and attempt to give them a very broad range of exposure to the world of business, with a concentration on small business start ups,” Instructor Roland Morin ‘91 said. “We are trying to teach these students what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur and business owners and help them to understand that much more goes into starting a business than just simple idea. I am trying to do this in a quintessentially Wabash way - where the ideas are presented then debated then debated again and then the student's thinking is challenged and we debate again. The material is not easy and at time it is tough. They will end up reading and dissecting over 60 Harvard Business School case studies written for the graduate level.”
Already the group has studied entrepreneurship, leadership, and studied various company profiles. They’ve taken site visits to 240 Sweet a confectionary in Columbus, IN., Triton Brewing Co. and the Engledow Group in Indianapolis.
A number of Wabash graduates share time with the students making presentations on their personal business experiences.
“This program has already taken me from an "aspiring entrepreneur" to an educated and much more motivated one,” said Hezekiah Eibert ’15. “We have learned a lot about the processes of formulating a business plan, properly pitching an idea and preforming an opportunity analysis.”
Graham Stewart '15 said the case studies and on-site visits are a great education. "We see what mistakes entrepreneurs have made, and what they have done correctly," he said. "We sharpen our business acumen by learning what a business plan is supposed to be like, how to market a business, how to pay employees for incentives, and how to lead a group and give group presentations. We apply all of this new information in our own business groups, where we have to plan out a business and give a pitch for it to a panel of alumni, much like, “Shark Tank.” The Business Immersion Program is very much like going to business school with a bunch of your friends."
Even though the pace around campus is much slower than during the school year, Morin tries to maintain the rigor of the Wabash classroom.
“I have set the expectations and deliverables very high,” said Morin, a partner at Innovate Consulting Group at Mishawaka. “Students are challenged to write four papers, produce a full business plan for a viable entrepreneurial idea and then present the plan to panel of business experts where they have to defend their reasoning and thought process.
“They are also given a consulting project that requires a much broader range of thinking about a business topic. And along the way, they will make about 10 individual presentations in front of the class to help them work on their presentation skills.
The students arrive engaged at 9 a.m. each day in part because of Morin’s enthusiasm. “Roland is an excellent instructor who knows business very well and has seemingly endless knowledge about marketing,” Patrick Carter ‘14 said. “I also feel like we have been really well taken care of by him and Betsy Knott as far as making sure we have what we need to succeed. The highlights so far have definitely been our site visits. Visiting businesses, especially ones that are owned by alumni, is really interesting. The different paths our alumni have taken to become successful in their respective fields are really diverse.
“Having looked at our class syllabus the founder of Triton Brewing, David Waldman '93 said he would have loved to have a program like this available to him before he started his business. I think that is very telling of the importance and relevance of our material.”
The respect students show to Morin is one of mutual admiration. “I am very impressed with the students, they are fully engaged and are starting to make the bigger picture connections to the larger concepts and are translating them into their business plans,” Morin said. “I hope this is as a rewarding experience for the students as it is for me. I am learning a great deal about them as individuals but also as a demographic. I know that I will be looking at my client's business need differently because of my expose to these 16 Wabash Men.”
The class meets daily through the week of July 2. The students make their final presentations July 5 and have a wrap-up session July 6.