As the summer begins the excitement for many of Michigan State’s incoming freshman business majors begins to rise because they were accepted into the 23rd Annual Summer Business Institute (SBI). SBI provides life-changing exposure for all of its participants and the 2013 class had a new opportunity – The Multicultural Business Success Academy. The Academy builds on the Summer Business Institute experience. This comprehensive approach was effective. The average fall semester cumulative grade point average was a 3.49 with 10 students earning a 4.0 cumulative grade point average during their first semester. Fifteen students earned internships with Fortune 500 companies and 31 students were invited to join the MSU Honors College

Many students came into SBI with little knowledge of professionalism, resume building, and internship opportunities. Throughout the week they learned about the corporate world and engaged in activities such as bowling, billiards and an award winning community service event to help them grow.  Many of the friendships and connections made during SBI carried over into the fall semester. The Multicultural Business Success Academy capitalizes on these relationships through a unique online course and professional development activities exclusively for SBI students.

During the transition to college many students struggle academically and socially. In order to keep the positive momentum going and focus on success, Dr. Darrell King, Senior Associate Director of Multicultural Business Programs and Sherri Henry, Assistant Director of Undergraduate Academic Services created BUS 291: Introduction to Business. This course offers an introduction to business and communication skills necessary to compete successfully in a global and diverse environment. This course provided each student with a broad understanding of the modern business world. The class focuses on transition issues related to college and offers a foundation for success in business and beyond.

Since students met in summer during SBI and continued to interact online through the course, when classes began the students had a network of peers who shared the same experiences and faced the same academic and transition issues. BUS 291 was only open to students in SBI so it allowed constant contact with the students since the class met weekly. Since the class met online in August and then in person for 10 weeks during the fall semester, it ended on Halloween and gave the students the final five weeks of fall semester to focus on their other classes and prepare for finals “I’m really going to miss BUS 291, because I was able to see my friends from SBI,” said Alexis Parker, a supply chain management freshman.

The course is different from other freshmen seminars, because it begins over the summer. The students had to complete weekly assignments online. The purpose of the assignments over the summer was to get students thinking about their future goals and careers. Instructors King and Henry believe that it was important for the students to realize their goals early in their academic career in order to work towards achieving them. Throughout the course students worked on reflective assignments that served as a way for them to analyze their personal growth and leadership styles.

Cultural diversity is also a unique element to this class because the students learned how to thrive in a multicultural environment.  Students learned to interact in a diverse workplace. Activities included participating in research interviews, managing group dynamics, giving planned presentations, and using technology to enhance business communication.

In addition to helping students develop professionally the course also gave students the opportunity to build relationships with their professors and other faculty members. The students had the opportunity to meet deans, administrators and advisors of the business college. “Taking BUS 291 was extremely beneficial, coming into MSU I knew more about the admissions to the business college than some sophomores,” said Amber Moore, accounting freshman.

Professional development was a major aspect of BUS 291. Students were able to learn how to behave in a professional setting. SBI scholars began to realize the importance of communication skills, networking, and selling themselves. Students also learned the significance of building and maintaining relationships. Corporate representatives from Proctor & Gamble, Target, Ernst and Young, and the MSU Internal Auditors came in to present. Corporate representatives gave presentations on the importance of academics to the business world and steps and strategies that they could take to develop professionally even as early as their freshman year.  The presenters also talked about career and internship opportunities that their companies had to offer. “I found most of the presentations interesting and interactive,” said Breianna Bonds El, accounting freshman.

 At first many students were apprehensive about talking to recruiters; however early in the semester students were assigned the task of developing their 30 second elevator pitch. Professionals from Proctor and Gamble critiqued the students’ digital recordings of their elevator speeches and provided professional feedback to each student. This made the networking process a little easier. “When I first started talking to the recruiters I was very nervous, but I knew I had to get comfortable with being uncomfortable,” Myya Jones, accounting freshman.

Although it was difficult at first, with practice students improved their networking skills. “BUS 291 acted as a catalyst to help us connect with professionals,” Alissa Lyon, accounting freshman.  Talking to the different corporate representatives was good practice and prepared students for career fairs.

Although professional development was a key objective, but BUS 291 was also designed to build leaders. Throughout the semester students had to work in groups for various assignments, including the Target Case Competition. Target Corporation provided an in-class live case competition where students competed in teams to review a case and come up with the best solution, utilizing a step by step process.  “The time restrictions on the group activities helped us learn and adapt to working in a fast-paced environment,” said Parker. Although group assignments were challenging at first, they helped students practice time management and interpersonal communication skills. Students were able to learn how to work with different perspectives and personalities to achieve a common goal. Target Corporation provided over $2,000 in book scholarships for the students.

BUS 291 proved to be a very valuable course for freshmen business majors. The class exposed them to different companies and career opportunities. Students appreciated the family like atmosphere of the course, and found that it helped relieve some of the anxieties of transitioning into college.  SBI and BUS 291 was an excellent foundation that motivated many students to become leaders, and step outside of their comfort zones.