While traditional co-op programs are commonplace in many post-secondary institutions, it has been wonderful to see the increased attention that experiential learning, in all forms, has garnered the last few years. Western University has a great video highlighting why they feel experiential learning is critical for today’s student, click here to watch.
We couldn’t agree more. Our organization, Vector Marketing Canada, has been fortunate to partner with Dr. Derek Hassay, Assistant Professor at the Haskayne School of Business, at the University of Calgary, with a unique service learning project, called Selling Smiles 101 ®.
Students in his 4th year sales management course come up with marketing strategies and sell our product, Cutco Cutlery, either in B2B or B2C scenarios. Dr. Hassay felt students could only learn so much from textbooks and role-plays, so he started this initiative, as a course project, about 10 years ago.
All proceeds from the sales of the products are donated to charity. Students have enjoyed working with the Children’s Wish Foundation, and throughout the last decade, have raised over $250,000 to grant several wishes to local children and families.
There are some students across the country that graduate with a business degree, but have no substantive marketable experience prior to graduation. Projects like Selling Smiles 101 ®, truly give students an opportunity to get out of their head and put into practice what they are focused on in the classroom. They learn skills like, how to motivate a team, how to set sales goals and targets, and how to deal with rejection. It’s truly an invaluable experience.
It has provided the school and professor with more exposure as well. Dr. Hassay has been recognized many times over the last few years, more recently just 2 years ago with the inaugural University of Calgary Teaching Award, which paid special tribute to innovations in experiential leadership. He also was awarded the Pearson Prentice Hall’s Solomon-Marshall-Stuart Award for Innovative Excellence in Marketing Education in 2009. The business school and its students, have also received well deserved media attention and accolades from the Children’s Wish Foundation.
While some students who have participated in this class, are somewhat apprehensive or nervous in the early weeks of the semester, most find the project both rewarding and an incredibly important part of their studies, as reflected by this former student,
“This class has been the single-most valuable I have taken, and expect to take, throughout my entire business degree. Not because of the sales experience and learning I have gained, although that is significant, but because of the personal growth and development it offered. This class was exactly what I feel university should be, and isn't. You didn't confine your lectures to the 'curriculum' of topics you needed to cover but offered a variety of insight into larger topical 'life' issues that students so badly need insight into at this point in our lives. You facilitated an opportunity to gain real-life experience outside the walls of Scurfield Hall because you understand the limits of simply trying to learn something like selling theoretically. You tried to bring experiential learning into the class as well through role play situations. You offered a project that challenged every single person sitting in the seats of your class and if people chose to take that challenge on, they were beyond rewarded with what they accomplished. Not only were you able to deliver a superior learning experience in your class but you also offered the opportunity to take that learning and make a sick child's wish come true.”
While our objective in partnering with Dr. Hassay and his students had never had a focus on recruiting, we’re so proud of the many outcomes it has had. It has exposed business students to other industries and career paths they hadn’t considered. Some even went into the non-profit sector after being exposed to the Children’s Wish Foundation, and realizing they could use their business degree in an arena that wasn’t solely just about the bottom line. This project also debunked the belief that some students had, that “marketing” and “sales” aren’t fundamentally one in the same, and some students had greater interview success after graduation as well.
Whether we are employers or educators in this space, I challenge us all to think about how we can commit to incorporating more and more experiential learning opportunities for students. After all, don’t we all want a stronger and smoother school to work transition for these upcoming grads?