Dr. Julie Pirsch is confident that Competitive Effectiveness (a course that teaches the fundamentals of marketing and management through lectures a collaborative capstone projects, also known as CE) is effective at simulating a real-world marketing project; after all, she designed it that way. Not only did Dr. Pirsch serve as a co-chair of the committee that designed the original Competitive Effectiveness curriculum, but she relied upon her industry experience in designing and launching marketing plans when doing so. “The goal in competitive effectiveness is to give students as close to a real-life marketing experience as they can get without actually going to work for a company, so we get our partners to come in with real time problems,” says Pirsch.
The “partners” that Pirsch speaks of are corporations that present CE students with a marketing problem that the partners are actually trying to solve. CE students are divided into groups and spend the course researching the problem and designing a marketing plan to solve it. At the end of the course, the top groups present their solution to representatives of the partner corporation. Recent partners have been Knoll, Inc., a high-end office furniture company looking to break into the higher education market, and American Eagle, a clothing retailer focused on launching its back-to-school denim line.
Dr. Pirsch teaches CE and upper-level marketing courses during the academic year, but SBI is one of her favorite teaching experiences of the year. Pirsch loves the “diversity of student perspectives” in SBI that produces a “unique mix of intellect and creativity”. This diversity of thought that goes into an SBI competitive effectiveness project leads to unique results; Dr. Pirsch notes that, “Students outside the business school think differently than business school students…. That allows teams to come up with some really unique and innovative solutions for our clients, and that’s just a lot of fun.”
Dr. Pirsch also notes that the structure of CE during the Summer does differ slightly from the academic year version. While academic year students write a paper to present their market research, SBI students annotate their final power point instead. Additionally, the marketing and management deliverables – smaller writing assignments assigned throughout the course that require students to apply the management and marketing principles they have learned – are shorter to account for SBI’s compressed time schedule. Still, Pirsch stresses that the SBI version of CE is no less challenging or fulfilling than its academic year counterpart, as she says that the course presents, “The same content, but a different format that allows us to fit it into five weeks.”
For Dr. Pirsch, the best part of SBI is the round of presentations that take place during the final days of CE. On the first day of presentations, each group of students presents their plan to the rest of their class. After the professors select the two best groups from each section, those groups present to representatives of the corporate partner and to the SBI student body as a whole. Pirsch says that “we really build up” to the experience of presenting, then defending, the presentation that students have been working towards for the entire course.
Even if a student doesn’t advance to that final round, they will walk away from CE, and from SBI, with valuable experience. “At the end of the summer, you have knocked out not only some basic blocking and tackling business courses, but you’ve been exposed to the postgrad world, both in business and in your discipline,”, Pirsch says, “We’ll make this the best possible experience that you can have.”