Don Nippard, senior business developer for Skyline Technology Solutions and 1980 graduate of the University of Baltimore, has partnered with Merrick School of Business Prof. Eusebio Scornavacca to bring the "real world" to the INSS 300 Management Information Systems classroom this past semester.
"It was the first time I've done anything like this, and the first time Skyline has done anything like this. It was very rewarding," Nippard said.
Skyline presented the class with a real world case study—a real client with real problems; only the names were changed "to protect the innocent," as Nippard put it. The basics of the case involved a beverage distributor that was having issues with the costs of delivery, due to various factors, of its product to regional customers.
While the standard advice to college students is perpetually "wait until you get to the real world," thanks to the partnership between Skyline and UB, the real world is at the heart of the learning.
About that learning, Prof. Scornavacca noted, "We managed to create a learning opportunity for the classroom that allows students to experience and apply the knowledge they were gaining in the course to a real life situation, interacting with a local business."
The students formed teams of four or five each to develop a solution to the Skyline case study. The teams were encouraged to apply the skills they've picked up in the classroom to the daunting problem faced by the company in the case study. They competed for a prize of $750 to be divided equally between team members.
The winning student team was Christina Wirth, Karamo Marenah, Ekaterina Nazarenko, Alinor Moeinzadeh and Jacob Harryman.
Commenting on her team's winning proposal, Moeinzadeh said: "Our biggest challenge was coming up with ideas that no one else would have thought of. We wanted to be different. We wanted it to work."
And made for a winning idea?
"We all had different majors,' she said. "So we were all really specific in our our own areas, and we came together as a group and everyone gave their best…. We all had different strengths and when we put it together, it was all just amazing."
This team strength was echoed by Scornavacca, who noted: "I think it was the composition of the team, they had strong students in all senses. And also the engagement of the team."
"It was a team that got together, that had five individuals that were quite strong in their individual performances in class and at the same time the way they engaged the challenge," he added. "I think that was the recipe for them to win."
Both the winning team and the class as a whole left a strong positive impression on Nippard.
"I thought this was a great exercise," he said. "We're looking forward to maintaining this on an annual basis."
For the current semester, Prof. Scornavacca’s INSS300 students are working on another real life case study, presented by Gensler, a global leader in design.
The real world—always a part of the UB experience—is both a powerful teacher and a motivator. And for every real-world problem, students discover there also are real-world solutions.