management

Living the learning

Experiential learning — or learning by doing — gives students the opportunity to bridge the gap between the classroom and the real world. Applying skills taught in a classroom, students solve a problem that simulates challenges they will face in the workplace. This type of learning is a hallmark of TU’s management and marketing programs. Not only do students gain valuable experience that carries over to their professional careers, but they also give back to the community through projects that benefit nonprofits and inspire leadership, creativity and innovation.

NOVA Day of Innovation winners

Why incorporate experiential learning?

Traditional classroom settings typically adhere to a structured format and while many professors encourage discussion, that type of instruction only takes a student so far into the material. Experiential learning, however, gives students the benefit of learning from one another in a self-directed manner. Students bear responsibility by creating processes, making decisions and maintaining accountability, keeping them fully engaged in a project. They experience success and failure just as they would in a professional setting.

Connecting with the community

Working with AdWords clients
Students work with local clients to develop a Google AdWords campaign.

Studio Blue, a unique student space in the Collins College of Business, is designed to encourage innovation. Charles Wood, associate professor of marketing, is one of several faculty members instrumental in bringing the concept of an in-house “idea factory” to fruition.

“Part of the strategy behind Studio Blue was to create interesting connections between our students and the community,” Wood explains. “There is a lot of need in the community, and the students need hands-on practice — everyone wins.”

With generous support from the George Kaiser Family Foundation and TU administration, the space opened in 2008. Students use Studio Blue as an agency-like environment to generate product innovation ideas, create business plans and work on projects for businesses and nonprofit organizations.

Wood also worked with the alumnus Joe Moeller and the Charles Koch Foundation to help design the NOVA Fellowship, which equips students with the tools to implement an idea or passion before graduating. The fellowship gives students the opportunity to work with mentors to develop innovative projects outside regular coursework. Students can obtain an Applied Innovation Certificate by taking a set of courses that teach innovation principles and the process of problem solving.

Working with AdWords clients
Students work with local clients to develop a Google AdWords campaign.

In the last few years, students in TU’s management and marketing department and the NOVA Fellowship have led nearly 100 projects on campus and in the Tulsa community. The hands-on projects range from promotional and branding campaigns to large-scale events for organizations including Family and Children’s Services, Mazzio’s, QuikTrip, Women in Recovery and the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma.

Elizabeth Estrada (BSBA ’19), who majored in marketing, worked on a service project for Goodwill during her time at TU. “I think hands-on projects that are offered through Studio Blue and NOVA are extremely beneficial to students’ overall learning,” said Estrada. “Working on the Goodwill project not only taught me great teamwork, time management and multitasking skills, but it was also a great way for us to work with AdWords in a real-life experience. Although our project did not exceed our expectations, we were able to leave with the knowledge of the tool. This was an experience that is not often offered in a traditional classroom, so it was also fun!”

Bringing big ideas to campus

TEDxUtulsaTU’s NOVA fellows have collaborated to organize campus events such as TEDx University of Tulsa and the Day of Innovation that spark creativity and showcase student talent. The Day of Innovation, which began four years ago, celebrates the hard work and bright ideas TU students have developed and implemented to benefit the college campus and local community. Caroline Rodgers, a marketing and French major who will graduate in the spring, said, “Having a small hand in the first and second Day of Innovation here on campus showed me that students and faculty alike crave the opportunity to put their creative skills to the test and moreover, recognition for the projects that they work so hard on — TUDOI gave them both.”

Rodgers explained that being able to help foster a space in which that was possible was such a unique experience and having the backing from the NOVA Fellowship allowed the idea to become a reality within a few short months. “I look forward to the great things that are to come from all TU students in an innovative capacity as the university continues to grow and change.”

Global engagement: Internships take business student around the world and back

Experiential learning is becoming increasingly popular not only with higher education institutions but, most importantly, with students themselves. Just this summer, Collins College of Business student Brittanie Whitney immersed herself in her fourth internship as a University of Tulsa student.

Whitney’s previous three internships saw the Kansas native interning through TU’s Global Scholars program for nonprofit organizations in Brazil, Chile and Mexico. Between her junior and senior years, however, Whitney – who is majoring in management and minoring in Spanish and international business – decided to “transition into more of a corporate environment” right here in the United States.

A surprising passion for corporate work

As an account management intern in the finance services consultive arm of Gartner, a global leader in the research and advisory sector, Whitney was able to test out new professional waters. “It wasn’t something I thought I would be interested in,” said Whitney. “But I ended up liking this opportunity so much more than I anticipated. I actually found my passion for the corporate setting. In terms of a career path going forward, the experience is helping me clarify what I want to do next.”

During her 10 weeks at Gartner’s Dallas office, Whitney was aligned with a specific account executive. Together, they worked to support chief financial officers to reach their goals in areas such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) implementation, robotic processing and finance team organization.

High-level engagement

“A highlight of my experience was having the opportunity to do research share-backs with clients,” Whitney recalled. “Everything Gartner provides to its clients is based on qualitative and quantitative research. I was one of the only interns whose account executives allowed them to engage in client-facing interactions.

“I would take the research, summarize it, digest it, do some research on my own on the client we were working with and their industry. Then, I would join the meeting and share the information back to them and field any questions they had. This gave me exposure to CFOs and allowed me to communicate on a really executive level, as well as go ‘off script’ when necessary. It was challenging but also a learning opportunity.”

Whitney was not the only one at Gartner who benefited from the internship experience. Shelby Whiteside-Brandt, the account executive with whom Whitney worked, heaped praise on her intern’s abilities: “Brittanie helped me in all key programs. Specifically, she directly contributed to a 14% increase in my client engagement numbers. From a personal perspective, Brittanie was able to quickly dive into challenging and ambiguous situations. Her ability to learn quickly was invaluable!”

Language, culture and solving problems

Reflecting on her four internships since that first summer after her freshman year, Whitney points out that the three that took her to foreign countries often entailed logistical and linguistic challenges. On the surface, those experiences seem utterly different from her recent Texas internship.

“But it’s interesting,” she noted, “that even though we were all speaking English at Gartner, there was a new ‘corporate language’ I had to master. I also had to bridge how we do things in academia with how things are done in the real business world. And then there were certain cultural differences that naturally arose because there were 103 interns from all over the country and abroad. How we approached team projects, for instance, was not the same for all of us.”

Whitney continued on to say that “one of the main issues that has arisen in each of my four internships is problem-solving – specifically, proactive problem-solving. Early on in my initial internships, I realized the need to be adaptable and flexible, to be creative when thinking of solutions.”

This lesson occurred right out of the gate during her time interning as a project supervisor with Amigos de las Américas in rural Mexico. There, a lack of infrastructure and spotty cell service taught her the value of foreseeing likely obstacles and trying to take steps before problems snowballed.

“I was able to take that skill into my other internships, including with Gartner,” said Whitney. “By preparing as much as possible, when you’re in the moment you’re able to provide the best response, whether in an internal meeting or with a client. The main questions my internships taught me to ask are: What can go wrong? What can go right? And how can we maximize our preparation?”

 

Are you a TU student interested in broadening your horizons and deepening your career-ready knowledge and skills through experiential learning? Begin your search with the helpful staff at the Center for Career Development and Professional Engagement.

In the meantime, you might enjoy reading this story about nursing and law students whose experiential learning brought them not only new skills but also gave them the satisfaction of helping sick and vulnerable children.