March 12, 2013

Students Gain ‘Hands-On,’ ‘Real’ Experience From AEM Program

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Business Opportunities in Leadership and Diversity — a program in the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management — held a Green Business Lab in order to promote communication, leadership skills and business ethics among Cornell students in March.

According to Deborah Mann, who works with students in BOLD, the lab provided students with hands-on business experience “in real time, under real stressful conditions.”

The 30 students who participated in the workshop — which met for a total of 12 hours over two days — were divided up into teams, with each team representing a fictional company. Students played different roles within the company and encountered real-life situations, such as keeping track of their financial earnings and deciding whether to not to comply with federal laws.

At the end of the business simulation, teams gave formal presentations in front of a board of directors, which included Daniel Roth, sustainability manager of the University, and executives from various companies.

Board members questioned teams about their management style and critiqued teams’ commitment to environmental sustainability, according to Mann.

“I use this as a capstone event, where leadership development is based on understanding who the [student] is as an individual, while also understanding who their team members are,” she said. “They must learn to hold each other accountable before they can attack the overall goal. As a team, they must seek out the synergies that bring them together.”

Although many of the students — who are part of the Leadership Certificate Program offered within BOLD, an intensive one-year program geared toward sophomores who apply to the program — are applied economics and management majors, a few of the students are scattered among other majors and colleges at Cornell.

Nikhita Surapaneni ’15, one of the participants in the lab, said the experience helped her gain a better insight on how to lead.

“Our company may not have earned the most profit or growth, but my accumulated knowledge on what it means to be a leader and how to lead in real life was priceless,” Surapaneni said.

David Pagan ’15, another participant in the workshop, said the skills he gained from the Green Business Lab and the BOLD program will benefit him in the future.

“As an architecture student, one does not always have the time to collaborate with Cornellians outside the design realm. The [program] helped me as a designer to work with a whole spectrum of leadership personas that expanded my views in the areas of interdisciplinary [and] simulated business-world teamwork challenges,” Pagan said. “Looking into the future, I know that this will definitely be a good skill to possess when working within the design, developer, or business side.”

Mann said she hopes that the Green Business Lab will drive students toward achieving specific goals in a business setting.

“Students work toward a triple bottom line, meaning that you not only want your business to be economically successful, but that you also want to be responsive to the stakeholders and the people affected,” Mann said. “You also want to show environmental stewardship and make choices that will sustain the future. Money is not the only thing that is involved in running a business — paying attention to your stakeholders is also paramount.”

Mann said that students gained leadership and communication skills from participating in the Green Business Lab.

“There are the critical thinkers and visionaries, and also the people who are solely focused on attacking the goal. Because students have so many differing personality [and] leadership styles, they need to learn how to communicate and work with others,” Mann said.

Original Author: Annie Bui