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American Business Experience 2013

September 2013

Fourteen students, 20 faculty experts, 15 company visits, 22 Executive Speakers, and an unlimited amount of fun!

That was the American Business Experience (ABE) 2013 program. The fourth annual ABE program began May 20 and successfully concluded June 14 with a sightseeing visit to the fine city of Chicago. The 2013 edition of ABE included 14 students, four of whom were MBA students from the University of Hyderabad. After a careful scientific study (e.g., counting the happy faces in pictures) using archival data, one would conclude that the program was a grand success!

Students attended class sessions every day for four weeks on advanced business topics taught by faculty experts in the morning followed by visits to companies in the afternoon.

For example, Dr. Xiaowei Liu covered the topic of 'purpose, process and practice' of initial public offerings (IPO), a topic that is not usually covered in undergraduate curricula. Then, students heard firsthand from the CFO of iNSYS Therapeutics, who recently guided his company through an IPO process.

During their four weeks, students visited John Deere, US Bank, Passage Global, TAG Communications, Bandag (left), and many other companies. ABE students lived in McCarthy Hall. Two SAU students acted as their guides, mentors, and buddies. Students learn as much–or more–living and relating to each other as in the classroom.

"Learning carries on no matter where you are," said ABE student Rohit Thapa, "In the classroom, field visit, residential complex, even if you are out shopping."

All students spent evenings and weekends together on recreational and sightseeing activities such as river cruise, biking, movies and evening barbecues. As another student put it, "American Business Experience...has really given me a platform to explore new things and also an exposure to a new culture."

In mid-June, a Farewell Dinner marked the end of the regular ABE program. Ten ABE students returned to their homes, while four MBA students remained on campus to complete projects for area businesses.

The MBA students spent three weeks post-ABE where they came face-to-face with real-world business problems.

"The projects were extremely challenging," said Jayakrishnan Charuvilly, ABE student, "and we were fortunate to work under such an esteemed organization as WAHL Clipper."

WAHL Corporation, world's leading manufacturer of hair clippers, faced major challenges related to counterfeiting and unauthorized diversion of its products in Asia. WAHL challenged students to find out potential reasons for diversion and suggest meaningful ways to reduce or eliminate them. Thapa set out to systematically estimate the extent of the problem and then offer suggestions for addressing the problems.

Separately, Tanushri Mishra and Charuvilly received a different project from WAHL. Years of rapid international expansion caused the organization to grow, but with uneven and overlapping lines of responsibility, which are causing organizational gaps and coordination challenges. Greg Wahl, WAHL CEO, charged these two students to suggest possible organizational designs to streamline coordination among organizational units. The students completed their work and submitted reports to WAHL.

Students worked hard to deliver real solutions that WAHL could use, applying concepts and theory to real business challenges that generated a sense of accomplishment in students.

"Initially I felt ambiguous regarding the objective of the project," Charuvilly said, "but later on was able to put things on track. ...I certainly feel elated to have done a project which is generally dealt with by the top management of the organization."

When asked what WAHL is getting from the students, Marc Geil, International Marketing Manager said, "a different perspective." Explaining a bit further, he said, "even though they are students, they question our methods. They ask us, 'why don't you do it this way?'"

The perspectives students bring, their energy and enthusiasm delighted Geil.

"The students are comfortable asking questions and I am impressed with their quality," he added.

So, one might ask, what does all this mean to the students? Tanushri summarized it best: "We learned that where there's a problem there's a business opportunity!"

That is the essence of St. Ambrose University's American Business Experience.

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