Expert-Led Experiential Learning

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Tuesday, June 1, 2021
Neil Niman, director of the Business in Practice program at UNH's Paul College of Business and Economics, and industry partner Stephanie Lawrence of Vera Bradley discuss the origins and benefits of the program.
Filmed by Jack Bouchard at the University of New Hampshire Paul College of Business and Economics in Durham, April 2021.


Neil Niman: [0:16] We think that we have a fabulous core curriculum in Paul College.

[0:21] Through many conversations with potential employers, we were hearing the message over and over again that our students weren't quite prepared in the way that they were hoping our graduates would be prepared, that they wanted students with career ready understanding of current technology, or tools, or techniques that are used in businesses today.

[0:47] While we think that we do a fabulous job in terms of foundational knowledge, what employers are really looking for is how to apply that knowledge and put it into practice.

[0:59] Once we've heard that message over and over again, it became natural for us to think, "Hmm, how could we institutionalize that? How can we make it part of the Paul College experience? How can we enhance our curriculum in this way?"

Stephanie Lawrence: [1:16] I first learned about this opportunity through a friend, a close friend of mine whose husband works at the university. I was interested in learning more about it, because in my role at Vera Bradley, I oversee our NCAA program. Ohio State is one of the schools that we have under license.

[1:35] The licensing director at Ohio State had asked me to come and speak at his class. It was supposed to be in person last March, but because of COVID, I ended up doing it through Zoom. I had such a great time with the students there, very engaged, asked great questions. Many of them had absolutely no idea about licensing as a business model.

[1:57] It went so well, they asked me to come back and do it in the fall. I thought there's lots of opportunity out there, would love to explore something closer to home, look for opportunities to put my professional experience to work and pay it forward.

[2:13] With the introduction, networked with Jen and with Neil, and ultimately, we're able to work out a course curriculum that has been a lot of fun and the students seem to be enjoying.

Niman: [2:29] We don't have a prescribed curriculum where we have a list of things, and we're going out and looking for somebody that can cover this list of topics. Rather, what we're doing is we're going out, and we're looking for interesting people that have something to offer the program and our students that will accelerate their professional success.

[2:53] We use that to gauge whether it's somebody that we want to work with. Then we actually invest a lot of time and energy in not only developing the course, but also in supporting them, getting them ready to step into the classroom, and be effective from day one.

[3:16] We bring a lot of our own resources to take somebody who has absolutely no teaching experience, and turn them into an effective instructor in a relatively short period of time.

[3:28] We're really proud of the fact that when you look at our course evaluations, our BIP instructors, and as I said many of them have never taught before, are earning the same high scores that our full time faculty earn in our core curriculum.

Lawrence: [3:45] The course topic for me was pretty easy and straightforward to decide what made the most sense, where to focus. My career path has been primarily in product licensing and brand licensing. It was fairly easy to land on product licensing as the topic, and the class, and the curriculum.

Niman: [4:05] We determine the course topics merely through a conversation we have with our industry professionals. When Stephanie Lawrence came to us and said, "Hey, I'm interested in teaching the program," we said, "OK, tell us about what you do and what you're interested, and what you're passionate about."

[4:23] She said, "Product licensing." We said, "That sounds pretty interesting." How would we go about creating a course? First step of our development process is to create what we call a course narrative.

[4:38] Then we begin to build that course narrative into a course outline where we can match concepts and activities, because all of our courses embody active learning. Then as we do that, the course unfolds.

Lawrence: [4:56] The benefits of being in a program like this is tapping into the young minds, learning what's out there, what's interesting to them, what's trending for them. As a result of the class that I'm currently teaching in the Business in Practice, it became very clear that many of the students in the class are very much into Hydro Flask.

[5:20] As a result of that, I'm actually looking to see if I can't get a collaboration going with Vera Bradley and Hydro Flask. It's been enlightening to see what's on their mind, what's interesting to them. It keeps you fresh. It keeps you connected to the vibrations that are going on at the ground level, at the collegiate level.

[5:41] That's what's been really rewarding for me is to keep that edge, and to keep that finger on the pulse of what's going on out there.

Filmed by Jack Bouchard at the University of New Hampshire Paul College of Business and Economics in Durham, April 2021.

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