Clayton Randolph ’16 – The Liberal Arts Bridges to Business (LABB) program took 18 students from different backgrounds and exposed them to real-world business experience from the end of May until early July.
The two major components of the paid eight-week LABB program included work on a community-based consulting project and a business plan for a hypothetical business each team of students would launch. Participants also learned to write an encompassing budget, advertising and operations plans.
“We take 18 students from across all majors with varied working knowledge of business and we expose them to the major concepts of working in business,” said Roland Morin ’91, in his fourth year leading the LABB program. “They read multiple Harvard Business School cases and business journals and are then asked to apply their liberal arts and Wabash analytical skills to the cases.”
The major concepts taught help make the students diverse in all areas of business. The participants receive preparation and understanding in economics, marketing, decision making, negotiations, procedures, human resources and leadership.
“This is all done at a very high level, but the main concepts are stacked – one upon the other to provide an understanding of what goes into working in business,” Morin said. “LABB allows students to explore topics and help them to see what areas they like most.”
Last year Wabash student employment was the consulting project. This year the Wabash scheduling program was front and center.
“This year’s consulting project was to assess the Wabash scheduling program and make recommendations for improvements to system processes, functionality, and the scheduling of rooms on campus for academic and non-academic events,” Morin said.
Part of the assessment was an open forum for members of the Wabash community to share their thoughts about the current system and suggest fixes. This allowed the students to get a better understanding of the present system.
The spirited campus discussion brought out many strong opinions. “Troubling.” “Incomplete.” “Pre-Internet.”
Perhaps not what they expected to hear. But, it was a practical way for students to experience how negotiations work in the business world. Being a part of the program has already taught students how to look at things from different points of view and has provided them opportunities to suggest fixes.
“Information Technology (IT) is trying to create a system that widely functions the best it can,” said Jake Budler ’17, an economics major. “They encounter people who know little about programming. Those people want it to work for what they need it for. I think there is miscommunication on how it’s used. The purpose of it varies from different people’s perspectives.”
The program concluded with presentations by the three groups of students showcasing their ideas for solving the problem. While philosophies varied from in-house fixes to outside scheduling companies, Morin understands what LABB gives back to students. Each year he witnesses more growth from participants, a sign the program is working.
“This is my fourth year leading this program for Wabash, and each year I am amazed at the ability of the students to make the connections between topics without being prompted,” said Morin. “Each day is different for me, the questions get more complicated and in depth as we add more topics. Facing a class of Wabash students eager to learn every morning is not easy, but it is well worth it.”
Corey Hoffman ’16 loves the idea of what LABB offers. “I have several friends who have participated in the program and they took away a lot,” he said. “It even helped them get more internships later by getting their foot in the door in business. It is essentially getting paid to learn.”