SBI Faculty Profile: Professor Julie Pirsch

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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.

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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.”

Faculty Profile: Professor Joseph Suprenuk

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Professor Joseph Suprenuk has extensive corporate experience in both finance and accounting. In addition to experience as a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) , Professor Suprenuk has been certified as both a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and a Certified Management Accountant (CMA). While Professor Suprenuk has primarily worked for firms involved in manufacturing, he has experience in a wide variety of industries. In Professor Suprenuk’s experience, accounting and finance work is “about 80-90% the same across industries”.

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While Professor Suprenuk has taught Financial Management and Reporting for the past three years, 2014 will be his first year teaching for the Summer Business Institute. He advises his students to keep in mind that finance is primarily an exercise in problem solving, not rote memorization. Memorizing formulas is less important than “understanding the numbers” and being able to work through a problem using the underlying principles of finance.

While Professor Suprenuk will focus on teaching the finance side of FM&R this summer (Professor James Emig will cover the accounting side of the same section), his dual background in finance and accounting serves him well in the classroom. Suprenuk notes that he has first-hand knowledge of how the disciplines of accounting and finance overlap and interact in a real-world corporate setting, and that he understands the problems accountants and finance professionals face over the course of their careers. Professor Suprenuk looks forward to using his knowledge of and experience in these fields to help non-business students learn a new skill set; he notes that, “I think there’s an excitement in that”.

Faculty Profile: Professor Patricia Crenny

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Professor Patricia Crenny’s industry experience is primarily in financial and tax accounting. As such, her area of expertise is examining a firm’s financial performance for the reference of outside parties, such as potential investors, lenders, or suppliers. Her industry experience is extensive, and her resume includes positions at two of the “big four” audit firms (Deloitte and PricewaterhouseCoopers).

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Professor Crenny is also a Villanova alumnae and basketball fanatic. When the Wildcats went to the Final Four in 1985, Crenny was studying abroad in Europe. Determined to find a place in Europe where she could watch Nova’s storied championship game against Georgetown, she eventually succeeded… by taking a 12-hour train to a U.S. military base in Germany.

Professor Crenny stresses that a background in Accountancy is a valuable asset in any field, “An Archaeology major who’s going to be the curator of a museum, [is] going to be given a budget… It’s all going to come down to dollars and cents at some point.” Professor Crenny also notes that a background in accounting can help students manage their personal finances.

Professor Crenny imparts this accounting background to SBI students through Financial Management and Reporting (FMR) a four-credit course which teaches the fundamentals of finance and accounting. Aside from the fact that SBI students complete FMR in a shorter period of time than their academic year counterparts, Crenny says that the summer version of FMR is “not very different at all” from the version academic year VSB students take. While the course is a challenge, it is by no means impossible, particularly if student’s take Professor Crenny’s advice to, “Study hard, keep focused. Get a good study group. Bond with the people who are in the room with you. Help each other.” Professor Crenny’s precise, thorough teaching style and her willingness to hold out of class extra help sessions before exams also help students get through FMR.

In Professor Crenny’s eyes, the biggest difference between the SBI and academic year versions of FMR is the diverse variety of perspectives that SBI students bring to the classroom. “The material I bring is mainly the same,” Crenny says, “what’s different is what’s coming from them.”

 

Professor Ward Utter Brings Marketing, Management Experience to SBI

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Before he began teaching, Professor Ward Utter spent years doing marketing work for the food industry, where he worked for firms such as Chef America (the maker of Hot Pockets) and Mrs. Field’s Cookies. The industry was a good fit for him, as he enjoyed addressing product choices that consumers make on a daily basis; “It’s more relatable for me,” Professor Utter says, “I’m very food motivated.” After working at Mrs. Field’s cookies, Professor Utter became a Senior Vice President at MaketheMove.com,  a service intended to streamline the process of changing addresses with utilities and other services when a customer moves. The transition across industries was difficult to make, but Professor Utter enjoyed the challenge of making decisions that impacted the entire organization. He credits the position for giving him the most valuable management experience of his career.

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Professor Utter relies upon his background in marketing and management when teaching Competitive Effectiveness (CE) to Summer Business Institute students. He believes that students benefit from the mix of academic and corporate experience that he and the rest of the SBI faculty offers.  While Competitive Effectiveness combines marketing and management into one course, Professor Utter notes that the management lessons students learn are applicable to any field, “everybody uses management principles along the way–everyone does.”

One of the key lessons that Professor Utter hopes to confer through CE is the importance of teamwork, a lesson that is part and parcel of management. He notes that working in a team can help a student better understand their individual abilities, and that the ability to work as a part of a team is a critical skill for those entering the modern workforce. As such, he advises SBI students not to be shy about getting to know their CE teammates, their classmates, and their professors. He also suggests that students have fun and think creatively when tackling the problems presented to them.

Professor Utter sees SBI as an environment that is particularly conducive to multidisciplinary thinking. To Professor Utter, the “magic of SBI” is how students from different backgrounds and with different career goals combine their diverse ways of thinking to attack a problem. He enjoys seeing what students from the different schools and majors can accomplish when they are placed on the same team for their CE capstone project. All in all, Professor Utter enjoys teaching SBI enough for him to return for what will be his fourth season, “It’s a unique opportunity and I’m glad it’s available.”