Case studies traditionally have been one of the teaching tools of choice. Now business schools are making these case studies more realistic for students by mixing in historical data from business.
It all happens in the computer lab. At Purdue University, that's the new Enterprise Integration Lab, which simulates an entire firm's data flow.
"Information on accounting, finance, manufacturing and logistics all flow through the system. Working in the lab will allow students to understand the integrated nature of a business enterprise," says James Dworkin, associate dean of the Krannert Graduate School of Management.
In the lab, students see how something as simple as placing a product order triggers action within the business.
The Purdue lab, and others at the University of California-Irvine, California State University-Chico and the University of Texas at Austin, is using new software, R/3, created by SAP, a global software company. R/3 is a suite of business functions that manages operations and information across a business, such as manufacturing, finance, accounting and human resources departments. According to news reports, companies such as Owens-Corning, Compaq, Chevron and Colgate-Palmolive use R/3 and see major returns on their investment in the software.
"Students can use R/3 to discover what happens when the customer places an order for widgets," Lois Bruckner, SAP university alliance manager, says. "R/3 illustrates the flow of activity immediately. It's not as simple as placing an order and getting the product. The production schedule, the request for more raw materials, the adjustment to the ledger sheets, the invoicing system, all of these departments, and more, are affected by a single order, and a good manager knows how they all relate to one another."
Randy Williams, director of UC-Irvine's MBA Career Services Center, says students with an integrated background will have the edge over graduates who don't.
"The information technology paradigm is here to stay." Williams says. "It's not any one particular software package. It's the fact that we're teaching the next business executives to think in terms of cause and effect in their decision making. The phones in our placement center started ringing practically overnight when industries heard we were using R/3 in the classroom."
John Bartley, information technology director of Eli Lilly and Co.'s global business support department, agrees.
"We don't necessarily want or need people who only understand R/3, but there is a big gap in supply and demand right now for people who have backgrounds with integrated software," Bartley says. "It will be a huge benefit to graduate with an understanding of how these systems work and why they are important in the workplace."
SAP's Bruckner says working with business schools is a logical fit for her company.
"We depend on well-trained managers who understand what our systems software can do, so we're excited about the alliance with solid management programs like Purdue's. In bringing this program to the university setting, our goal is to teach and illustrate management tools; there is a tremendous need in the marketplace for students with R/3 experience."
Purdue's Enterprise Integration Laboratory will house 35 desktop computers and one server funded by a $140,000 grant from Hewlett-Packard.
CONTACTS: Bartley, (317) 277-4217
Bruckner, contact Narina Sippy, SAP America Inc., (617) 672-6646, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dworkin, (765) 494-4364; e-mail, email@example.com
Williams, (714) 824-8465
Purdue's Classroom Climate Workshops, developed in 1995 to train engineering and science teaching assistants, are drawing the interest of universities from all over the United States and at least one large corporation. Bruce Parkinson, director of human resources administration for Delco Electronics in Kokomo, Ind., and coordinator of General Motors' recruiting activities at Purdue, says he thinks the workshops, which use an interactive theater method of presentation, would be a powerful tool for use in workplace diversity training.
"We have attended the Purdue workshops, and they have a most profound effect on participants," Parkinson says. "This interactive method gets the message across much more effectively than someone standing in a room giving a presentation with overhead slides."
During the workshops, the performers act out three different scenarios with a facilitator leading a question-and-answer session after each scene. Participants then split into small discussion groups to talk about what they've seen and learned. In the campus setting, the workshops focus on gender equity. In a corporate setting, the topics could include racism, sexism or cultural differences.
"A program like this would be highly effective in training executives for assignments in other countries," Parkinson says. "Drama provides a great way to illustrate and understand other cultures."
The workshops are the brainchild of Emily Wadsworth, assistant director of Women in Engineering Programs at Purdue. She developed them while looking at ways to improve retention of female engineering students. Wadsworth had discovered that male students interrupt more often and speak longer than female students. She also found that teachers tend to have more eye contact with male students and call on them more frequently. The workshops were one way to change that behavior.
"It's a good way to encourage discussion of sensitive subjects," Wadsworth says. "It involves the entire audience and allows participants to explore issues in a safe environment."
So far, 550 teaching assistants in the Schools of Engineering and Science have attended the workshops, and the results have been consistent.
"Our post-workshop surveys show that participants are coming away with a new understanding of gender equity issues in the classroom and the importance of treating all students fairly," Wadsworth says.
Starting in the fall of 1998, the workshops will be offered to teaching assistants in all 10 of Purdue's academic schools, and a pilot program was made available to engineering, science and liberal arts faculty this spring. Wadsworth says she hopes to offer the workshops to the corporate world soon. In the meantime, the acting troupe has been giving command performances for Midwest colleges and universities, and at several national conferences on higher education. Demand for the program has prompted Purdue to make the workshops available on video. It can be ordered through Purdue's Continuing Education Administration for $150. For more information, call 1-800-359-2968.
CONTACTS: Wadsworth, (765) 494-6611; e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org
Parkinson, (317) 451-0777
"Moving up the ladder is quick in this business, especially for young people who are motivated and enthusiastic," says Professor Lee Kreul, head of Purdue University's Department of Restaurant, Hotel, Institutional and Tourism Management. "Within five years, some graduates get into top-level executive positions. Entry-level positions in this industry allow them to demonstrate they're qualified fairly early in their careers."
A 1996 U.S. Department of Labor study says jobs for hotel and restaurant managers could increase by as much as 35 percent during the decade that ends in 2005. The study indicates that those with degrees in restaurant and hotel management will have the best opportunities. Total job growth in the U.S. economy during that same period is forecast at about 13 percent.
Within six months of graduating, 81 percent of the students in Kreul's department had found employment with annual salaries as high as $33,500. Entry-level positions filled by Purdue graduates included assistant managers and management trainees, as well as general management positions.
Kreul emphasizes that although work experience is important for job-hunting graduates, nothing compares to the experience offered by study abroad and internship programs. "Employers want people who are mature and responsible, and a successful internship or experience abroad can prove that," he says.
Janet Bray, the department's recruiting coordinator, says employers see more value in an internship than in a job that a student held while in college. "An internship gives the student a chance to experience a variety of areas through rotation in order to get an overall view of the business instead of limiting them to one position as a typical job would," she says.
Artemisa Kuhn, employment manager of the Indianapolis Westin Hotel, says, "We are targeting students with training in hotel management because we are actually running low on managers."
According to Kuhn, who recruits at Purdue, the lodging industry offers college graduates the chance to go into management-training positions that could lead to promotion in a couple of years. "Some students who graduate from programs like Purdue's could be general managers in three or four years at a full-service hotel," she says. "Normally, it takes 10 to 15 years in the business to run a full-service operation."
"Right now, we are averaging about 50 postings for management positions at Westin Hotels worldwide. In this business, the jobs are there just waiting for qualified graduates."
CONTACTS: Kreul, (765) 494-4643
Bray, (765) 494-4729; e-mail, Brayj@cfs.purdue.edu
Kuhn, (317) 262-8100
Compiled by Kate Walker, (765) 494-2073; e-mail, email@example.com
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org
To the Purdue News and Photos Page