Undergraduate students put business education into action through SFU bookstore
Nov 03, 2015
An innovative new partnership between SFU’s bookstore and a class of Beedie School of Business undergraduate students could point to a new direction in the future of university bookstores – as a laboratory for putting business education into action.
The partnership sees students from the Beedie School of Business’ Bus 202 Foundations for Collaborative Work Environments class exercise control over marketing of SFU Beedie-branded products in the Burnaby and downtown Vancouver SFU bookstores.
More than 160 students in the class were divided into 12 product groups made up of three task teams, each focusing on one particular area of the retail experience: marketing and promotions; product management and research; and accounting and operations.
Each product group was asked to develop viable product management pitches before being allocated $150 in seed funding for their campaign. Net profits from sales will be split between the SFU bookstore and the Beedie School of Business, with the monies generated by one class invested in more products for the next cohort of students, thereby creating a perpetual student experience.
The project, called the Beedie Product Management Experience, is designed to run year round, and is available in all three semesters. It is offered in the first class that students take at the Beedie School of Business when transferring into the School as part of the Business Foundations Program.
“This project underscores the Beedie School of Business’ philosophy of engaging students with an experiential learning approach to education,” says Andrew Gemino, associate dean of undergraduate programs at the Beedie School of Business.
“The SFU bookstore has been an excellent partner and enabled our new students to gain invaluable real-world experience. Students will make mistakes, have debates with their team members, and at times become frustrated with themselves and others. This is all real life – it will teach them to reflect on the situation, and learn from the process.”
The class is designed to offer students not only real-world experience in areas such as product research, marketing, and sales, but also to provide experience in working collaboratively from an early stage in their business education.
In September the class held an experiential learning summit to teach the students invaluable self-assessment and team building skills. Led by Bus 202 lecturers Al Jones and Shauna Jones, the summit utilized professional interpersonal development and team building exercises that are used by organizations in training their professional staff.
One such professional tool – and one which the Beedie School of Business is the only business school in Canada to use in its undergraduate education – was the Strength Deployment Inventory, a self-assessment tool that helps people understand what gives them a sense of self-worth and what is important to them when relating with others.
According to Bus 202 senior lecturer Shauna Jones, teaching students how to successfully navigate collaborative work environments is not only a valuable skill, but also an equally valuable commodity in a competitive job market.
“Our research has shown that one of the biggest asks from employers is for new employees to be able to work well with others,” says Jones. “By exposing the students to collaborative work environments from an early age they become more accepting of others and less judgmental. They learn to draw on others’ strengths, and to negotiate and handle conflict. In doing so, they develop more emotional intelligence through this process.”
With the future of university bookstores in the higher education landscape proving to be a hotly debated topic in recent years, the Bus 202 partnership demonstrates a potential expanded role for on-campus bookstores. The partnership is not the first time the store has opened its doors to students seeking real-world cases, however.
“We have long had students use the bookstore in their education – either by interviewing the management team, or conducting case studies – so it seemed like a natural fit to use it as an experiential learning laboratory for business students,” says Mikhail Dzuba, director of the SFU bookstores. “We look at this as a relationship building opportunity. Through the partnership, students in the class and beyond will realize that this is their bookstore, and it’s up to them to take ownership of it.”