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Business Boot Camp

The University of Toronto held a unique type of boot camp this summer—one without pushups, crunches, or five-mile runs. Instead, trainees—undergraduate liberal arts majors looking to work in the business world—entered a series of long, intense, educational workshops and classes.

"What a liberal arts degree does is teach students how to think and write, but it doesn't teach them the language of business or skills they can use in their first job",says Joseph D'Cruz, a professor at Toronto's Rotman School of Management who created the program (see, 4/26/06, "A Liberal Take on Hiring"). "That's precisely what the boot camp is designed to do."

The camp ran for a month in June, six days a week, for about 12 hours a day. Rather than relying on lectures and case discussions, the program centered around learning by doing. To study marketing, participants broke off into six groups and created marketing plans for Sony of Canada [SNE]. A marketing manager for Sony Music actually sat in on the presentations and plans to use some of the students' ideas, says D'Cruz. Undergraduates also used the B-school's finance lab to trade stocks and shares and participate in simulations to see how bonds are priced. Next year, D'Cruz wants to expand the program from 57 students to about 200.

GRANT LOSS MEANS CUTBACKS. Money goes a long way, as folks at the University of Mississippi's School of Business Administration know. Last month, the school lost one of its largest grants when the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation decided not to continue funding. The foundation did not provide a reason, says Jeffrey Alford, associate vice-chancellor for university relations at Ole Miss.

Since 1997, the foundation has given the B-school $13.5 million in two five-year grants. As a result of the funding loss, Robert M. Hearin Chair William F. Shughart II did not receive a pay raise, one telecommunications employee was let go from his B-school job and given a lower-paying position at the alumni association, and other staff members were either retained by the school using other sources of income or reassigned to comparable positions in different university departments.

Alford said the grant was a significant element in the school's operating budget and that officials will pursue other sources for donations.

FOUR SCHOOLS NAME DEANS. Several universities have named new business deans this summer, including Northern Illinois University, the University of Akron, Western Michigan University, and Southern Illinois University.

Denise Schoenbachler is the new face of NIU's College of Business but is by no means a stranger to the university. She has been a marketing professor there since 1992 and chair of the department for the past five years. But teaching isn't the dean's only interest—she is involved in 4-H goat competitions and lives on a farm.

In August, Akron's College of Business Administration will welcome Frank C. Sullivan, a finance professor at Kent State University. Also in August, J. Dennis Cradit will take over as dean at Southern Illinois' College of Business and Administration. Cradit was chair of Florida State's marketing department.

P. David Shields will join the WMU Haworth College of Business later this summer from the University of Houston's C.T. Bauer College of Business. In addition to being dean, Shields will be a tenured professor of accountancy.

ROAD TRIP. While most of their peers are sweating it out at internships, two Villanova B-school undergrads are having a different kind of summer vacation. The incoming seniors are traveling around the country in an RV they bought on eBay (EBAY) for $2,900, meeting with dozens of interesting business people, and turning the seven-week experience into a documentary. Once the students edit the piece, it will be shown at various Villanova events and, they hope, screened at other campuses.

"We were both really scared to tell our parents," says marketing major Brock Bergman, half of the duo. "Basically, everyone in business school gets a good internship the summer between junior and senior years and tries to get a good job from the company [afterward]" (see, 5/8/06, "No Passport to Success"). But job security concerns didn't stop Bergman and his roommate Michael Burke from straying from the norm.

Their journey started back in September, when Bergman saw a film produced by the company Roadtrip Nation. He outlined a proposal and sent it to the production company, which offered him $2,000 for the summer. The guys raised an additional $17,000 from corporate sponsors and Villanova, so they paid nothing for the trip. Roadtrip Nation gets some rights to the film and will screen part of it on PBS.

The movie centers around interviews with interesting people of the business world—contacts the men made through family members, friends, and the Villanova School of Business (see, 6/18/06, "Equal Opportunity Bias?"). Subjects give a shortened version of their life stories to the camera. The budding filmmakers have spoken to everyone from a Sno-Kone salesman to a sports psychologist to the president of the Pittsburgh Steelers, since Bergman's dad works for the NFL. In the business world, it's all about connections.

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