It's All Business

Strategic management group Rachel Anderson, Jonathan Kok, Hannah Dieringer, and Kortney Powlison

Lebanon Valley College business students spend a semester running their own footwear companies and battling their classmates for market share, profits, and brand loyalty. The students compete in a simulation through the Strategic Management capstone course taught by Robert Leonard, professor of business administration.

For just the second time in the 10+ years LVC has run the course, one of the College's teams of students finished tied for first place worldwide. During the fall 2016 semester, the team of Rachel Anderson '17, Jonathan Kok '17, Hannah Dieringer '17, and Kortney Powlison '17, earned the accolade while competing against approximately 4,000 other teams.

The class—divided into groups of three or four—was tasked with developing a strategy for their respective companies to try to gain market share and meet performance targets throughout a 10-year hypothetical span. 

By the end of the semester, Anderson said she felt more confident about her business skills and what her classes have taught her.

"This class enabled me to put all my knowledge together to run a business," said Anderson. "This class makes students do more than just learn definitions from a textbook, it's all about application and that's what the real world is about. No employer wants to hire a graduate who can tell you definitions of business terms. Employers want to hire graduates who know how these factors affect their business."

In addition to the Fall semester success, students from the previous spring also found the course to be the perfect culmination of their business program.

“Decisions regarding corporate social responsibility, sales forecasts, advertising, marketing, capacity, employee training, and private label operations must be made for each simulation year,” explained Stephanie Cosgrove ’16. “These companies all operate within the same overall market and each company is a fellow competitor. Based on the decisions made, all teams compete for market share, brand loyalty, sales revenue, profits, and image. 

“It is a holistic approach to encompassing and executing all skills learned throughout our four years here at LVC,” Cosgrove added.

Ariana Freeman ’16 echoed Cosgrove’s statements and said, “The simulation is challenging, but fun because it draws on so much of what we have learned the past four years and helps us to see the effect our decisions can have on the company’s performance for a given year.”

While the simulation exercise has been the most recent class project, the first half of the capstone course focused on a case study competition. The students were split into groups and then made final presentations, which included fielding questions regarding their analysis.

“Each course section chose three presenters who competed against the other group, and the rest of the class was tasked with writing the final paper and drafting questions to ask the opposing team in an attempt to stump them,” Freeman explained. “The preparation for the presentation and paper was intense and fast since we did not have the luxury of time, but both teams did a great job presenting the information at the competition and I had fun working on this project with the class.”

Cosgrove said the presentations were high level and very detailed, “Not only are there many skills needed to compute and construct the data to present, but effective communication during the presentations are key. This is especially important when answering the questions asked in a clear and concise manner.”

The Strategic Management class ties all of the business courses together by drawing on the concepts business administration students have learned, such as marketing, finance, economics, ethics, international business, management, accounting, and organizational behavior. 

“This course has definitely prepared me for the workforce post-graduation,” Cosgrove said. “I feel as though I am prepared to communicate in-depth analysis, while also being able to complete the analysis. This course has also helped me in developing time management and resource allocation skills.”

Freeman explained how the course’s structure will benefit her in the future and said, “The course is not taught in the traditional lecture-exam style that most courses follow, but instead it challenges students to collaborate in groups, meet strict deadlines, and present information to the class in a more formal business setting. This will be beneficial for us as we enter the working world and transition out of an academic setting.”