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Broad students offer ideas to, earn kudos from metro Detroit corporate heavyweights Quicken Loans, DTE Energy

By Omar Sofradzija

It’s not just learning facts, or even winning prizes. It’s about building confidence, too.

But all three resulted from the participation of some Eli Broad College of Business students in contests related to experiential learning programs this past spring where undergraduates teamed up to brainstorm with a couple of metro Detroit corporate heavyweights: Quicken Loans and DTE Energy.

Forrest “Sam” Carter, faculty director of the Burgess Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation
Forrest “Sam” Carter, faculty director of the Burgess Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Broad students from sections of Marketing 355 in Spring 2018 and Business 190 from Fall 2017 swept top honors both in Quicken’s “E-ternship Program” competition and DTE’s “Energize Innovation” contest. The awards are nice, but the experience is better.

“It is one thing for them to learn terms, definitions, and concepts, but it is quite another for them to learn in their hearts that they can do something – especially when they have never done it before, and didn’t think they could in the beginning,” said Forrest “Sam” Carter, faculty director of the Burgess Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and an associate professor in the Department of Marketing.

Along with the experience, students got the chance to rub shoulders – and share ideas – with role models.

“Research has shown that the number one predictor of someone being an entrepreneur is a parent or mentor who is an entrepreneur,” Carter said. “Since many do not have such a parent or mentor, this exposure helps provide some of the same motivation and insights into what it means to be an entrepreneur.”

Broad College winners of the Quicken Loans competition.
Broad College winners of the Quicken Loans competition.

For students, “they get as close to an internship experience that one can get within a classroom environment,” Carter said. “Related to this, they get tangible material to include on their resumes; and finally, the confidence when it comes to marketing their own product or service that they have been there and done that.”

Meanwhile, companies get a chance to conduct what is called adaptive execution, which relies on inexpensive ways to identify whether a particular strategy will fail or not, and if it fails, to learn valuable lessons from that failure, Carter said.

“This project allowed these companies to test tactics relevant to their current marketing experiences and validate which ones had traction and to learn from those that did not have traction,” Carter said.

The projects tested by the Broad team included:

  • Campus Commandos: students tested an onboarding strategy for the marketing firm to get large numbers of students to sign up at low cost but large scale. “Their results suggested the strategy was quite viable,” Carter said.
  • Skillo: students tested a content marketing approach to attracting prospective customers to the Quicken Skillo training Web site. “Again, their results provided evidence that this approach had merit,” Carter said.
  • Rocket Fiber: students developed a database for a call list for Quicken Rocket Fiber’s sales force, as well as a strategy for the Internet provider to approach prospective clients, according to Carter.
Ken Szymusiak, managing director of the Burgess Institute
Ken Szymusiak, managing director of the Burgess Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation

“Partnering with the Quicken Family of Companies provided my class with a great perspective on the inner workings of three growing companies,” said professor Ken Szymusiak, managing director of the Burgess Institute. “Traditionally, ‘case studies’ are past tense with known outcomes; however, this project allowed us to work with the company founders in real time, addressing problems that they are facing today. This type of experiential learning is critical for truly pushing our students to develop innovative and creative solutions.”

Meanwhile, for DTE, student participants designed, implemented, and marketed for an ideation contest, which included more than 100 student submissions from across campus. The participation of Broad students was rewarded with both class extra credit and Entrepreneurship and Innovation Experience credit.

Broad College winners of the DTE Energy contest.
Broad College winners of the DTE Energy contest.

“DTE found five ideas that had not previously been thought of that they feel has great potential as value-adding products or services for their company,” Carter said.

The project was also a leap of faith for the DTE team. Eric Clinton, manager of electric marketing and new products and services development, and his team had never used such an “open innovation” approach to their ideation process. They found the experience to be an equally valuable learning opportunity, according to Carter.

Quicken winners from Carter’s Marketing 355 class (in order of finish) were Dylan Clark, Grant Fortenbacker, Claire James, Trevor Joy, Nikita Patel, Griffin Romney, Trinity Smith, Courtney Sturza, and Harli Wood.

Quicken winners – whose ideas were voted best by the company they worked with – from Szymusiak’s Business 190 class were Noah Fetterhoff, Dhruva Govil, Sam Hansen, Stephanie Hilts, Hanna Holmi, Devin Laporte, Armani Mckalpain, Edward Okuniewski, Abbie Reimel, Tabitha Ann Rose, Lyndsay Sharrer, Morgan Janelle Stinson, and Holly Taipala.

DTE winners (also in order of finish) were Tianyue Yang, Taylor Stack, Angelos Bairactaris, Ken Buchanan, and Kelly Buchanan.

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