Eight Denison students gathered in the lecture hall in the Burton D. Morgan Center and studied a giant screen that revealed the inner workings of a research lab at the Owens Corning Science and Technology Center in Granville. The Fortune 500 company, which specializes in glass fiber technology (a.k.a. insulation for energy efficiency), essentially hired the students as consultants to redesign their lab for an enhanced visitor experience. Another competing team of nine students was secluded elsewhere doing the same thing.
Dressed in crisp business shirts, creased pants, skirts, and jackets, the students in Burton Morgan rolled up their sleeves and started brainstorming the best way to give the research lab a facelift. The two teams not only polished plans and presentations for the Owens Corning executives, but they also worked on a separate project for executives from Deloitte Consulting. (The winners of this latter competition, analyzing a case study for Under Armour apparel, were awarded $100 gift certificates.)
This real-world exercise was part of the 2011 Organizational Studies Program, which has been directed by Dr. David P. J. Przybyla of the psychology department for the last 10 years. The academic program requires several core courses related to organizational functioning, a career-related internship, and a month-long summer session during which rising seniors participate in workshops, lectures, and seminars both on campus and off-site (this summer in Chicago, Detroit, New York City, Greenwich, and Bristol, where the students toured the ESPN campus.)
Most sessions were conducted by Denison alumni who work in organizations such as Merck Pharmaceuticals, Leo Burnett Advertising, Sotheby’s, ESPN, General Motors and, O, The Oprah Magazine. Additional sessions were conducted by friends of Denison at places like Madison Square Garden, Time Consumer Marketing, and the Etiquette Institute. (Yes, students were even schooled in how to conduct themselves at international business dinners.)
The summer session, and the Organizational Studies Program as a whole, is designed to sharpen students’ critical thinking and problem solving skills—and to teach them how to work together within an organization, whether they’re debating the best layout for a research lab, projecting financial growth for new organizations, or learning about the “time value” of money.
Last Thursday the two teams met with Owens Corning executives to present their work. Then, on Friday, four groups of students presented their analyses of the Under Armour case to Deloitte. In both instances, the executives commended the students on the high quality of the presentations.
Recent graduate Tommy Simon ’11, an economics major who now serves as assistant to Dr. Przybyla, noted that “the OS Program is the ideal way to connect with alumni and to learn about the importance of a liberal arts education in the world of organizations and businesses.”
“I would rate [the summer session] as my number one experience at Denison,” said Ani Mutafova ’12, a psychology major and chemistry and German minor from Canton, Ohio. “Once I establish myself, I definitely want to contribute and keep it going.”