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By Bill Jolley | Associate Professor, School of Business and Management

At graduation this past spring, I sat with the family of a senior management student who had just completed the required capstone course in strategic management. The student’s father said to me at the luncheon table, “I wish I had had a course like this when I went to college. It is very realistic.” Coming from a business executive who has turned around many failing companies in his business career, I took that as a great compliment. The course he spoke of has at its core an online computer simulation of a global athletic footwear industry where twelve company-teams compete against each other.

Co-managers, or Executive Leadership Teams (ELTs) as I prefer to call them, are evaluated based on their company’s performance over 10 years on three key financial measures – Earnings Per Share, Return On Average Equity, and Stock Price – along with their company’s credit rating based on several debt ratios and their corporate image based on ethical practices, CSR, and product quality. These measures are then weighted equally to derive an overall score index.

The 2016 spring semester was the sixth year the course has been taught and each year we have companies that rank among the top 100 in the world competing against some 450 universities in 40 countries.  Our ranking gets even better when compared to US college teams participating in the simulation of which there were 318 this year. This year, however, was a particularly exceptional year.

The Executive Leadership Team of Evan Conner, Valerie McGuire, and Feliks Abrahamyan of Dashing Designs (Company D) earned a Global Top 100 ranking on their EPS – the 31st best EPS performance, worldwide!

Against other teams from the U.S., Dashing Designs earned the highest overall score index, tied other teams on their corporate image and credit rating, and mid-way through the 10-year simulation had already surpassed the record set by other teams by the end of the competition on ROE and stock price.

Their accomplishment was celebrated with all students and professors participating in the simulation through a “press release” from the authors complimenting the university on a performance that reflects commendably on the caliber of instruction that students are receiving in the course.

So what was their secret? First, their team exhibited strong visionary leadership. Second, they ran their company with unyielding execution of a single-minded business strategy. Third, they backed their decisions with critical thinking and thorough analysis of the data. Yet the most distinguishing characteristic of the high performing teams was their exceptional passion and enthusiasm generated by a competitive spirit. The rivalry among teams – in and out of class – was what drove many of them to put in the extra time and effort to win. Needless to say, Dashing Designs was the team to beat.

In recent years, School of Business & Management majors have taken field trips to better understand the connections between classroom readings and corporate practices. In 2013, Professors Mehdi Mohaghegh and Alex Chung coordinated with Board of Fellows member Robert Bleimeister on a visit to the New York Federal Reserve Bank. In 2014, students visited the global clothing company LaCoste in Montreal, where alumna Donna Lisk described how she improved inventory management by applying textbook practices.

But this year brought a change in the routine, when seniors Jeremy Guavin ’16 and Ben Kindregan ’16 took the initiative to arrange corporate visits in the Boston financial and business sectors for their peers.

Guavin made the connection for a deep dive in finance at Pioneer Investments through his father Robert Guavin, who serves as senior vice president of U.S. trading. Meanwhile, Kindregan scheduled a manufacturing facility floor tour with a quick phone call to his father, John F. Kindregan, CEO and president of Neptune Garment Co.

By sharing their unique access to these learning opportunities for the benefit of their peers, both students exemplified the qualities of leadership and service embedded in the School of Business & Management ’s academic mission.

At Pioneer Investments, students experienced an intensive workshop in a conference room setting with an agenda that covered eight financial and portfolio practice areas. Pioneer’s chief investment officer, Kenneth Taubes, welcomed the group. Top executives shared information on portfolio management, quantitative analytics, operational risk, and legal and compliance issues. From the start, student engagement drove the workshop beyond the scheduled agenda. Pioneer Investment executives responded positively to the students' enthusiasm, offering even deeper levels of knowledge and expertise.

Amy Larson, senior manager in operational risk management, inspired rigorous dialogue and planted a seed among faculty for the possibility of a new course in this subject area. Theory merged with practice in a discussion with Vice President and Portfolio Manager Howard Weiss on the subject of equal versus value-weighted portfolios—two different ways to manage an index fund.

“I was surprised he talked about this,” Jeremy Guavin said.  “We were just learning about weighted portfolios in class.”

When asked what other coursework came to mind while visiting Pioneer, Guavin cited Princeton economist Burton Malkiel’s book “A Random Walk Down Wall Street.”

“In Finance 412, we talk about concepts like firm foundations, castles-in-the-air theory, and the madness of crowds—how prices are valued in different ways and what methods are used to apply trading theory.”

Guavin also mused on the opportunity to meet a real-life human being who creates trading algorithms.

“There was this ‘whoa!’ moment when we listened to Ace Salva, Pioneer’s quantitative analytics portfolio manager,” Guavin said.

Salva has designed over 50 quantitative analytical models used in several Pioneer funds.

“You always hear about quantitative analytics, but you never seem to meet the person who’s behind it," Guavin said. "So, here’s this guy who stands up and says, ‘My models are helping manage funds.’ It was really cool.”

The next stop brought students from the corner of State and Congress streets to Boston’s SoWa (south of Washington) district in the South End, where the Neptune Garment Co. has manufactured uniforms since the early 1900s. The floor tour featured a success story involving capital risk and entrepreneurship, coupled with a deep sense of personal and professional integrity. John F. Kindregan rescued the languishing company in 1992, taking out a $180,000 loan at 16.9 percent interest with a commitment to restore trust with the company’s customers, suppliers, and employees.

“It would have been easier to start a new company,” Kindregan said. “The company was losing money. It had only 15 employees, and the business was falling apart. Operations management was brutal. Bills weren’t being paid and orders weren’t being delivered on time. Managers were there just to collect a paycheck. The company’s reputation was so bad, it had been blackballed by longstanding clients: the U.S. Army, the Navy, the military schools.”

How did Kindregan turn around the fortunes of the country’s oldest garment company?

His son Ben points to the curriculum as if it were written by his father.

“All of the things we learn throughout this program apply to my father’s experience," he said. "Operations management, marketing, accounting, entrepreneurship, leadership—all of it is relevant to Neptune Garment Co.”

John’s telling of the story is gritty, humble, and down-to-earth.

“It was hard. Old customers would hang up on me when I called. The textile mills required 50 percent payment up front,” Kindregan said. “It helped that I had served in the Navy. I went to the Navy and they gave me an order. But I had to restore trust. I had to deliver a high-quality product. I had to put the business on firm financial footing. I had to lead by example, working twice as hard as my employees to show them what we needed to accomplish.”

By 1996, Kindregan transformed Neptune Garment from a languishing company of 15 employees losing $400,000 per year to a reputable service provider staffing 147 and generating $1.7 million in profit.

Kindregan left the students with a three-part message: “Be honest. Work hard. Find a niche.” He values his son’s education at Norwich.

“I learned from the school of hard knocks," Kindregan said. "I want Ben to take everything he’s learned from my experience and apply that with the education he’s getting now. He doesn’t have to become a cutthroat businessman. He can be successful and happy.”

Back in Dewey Hall, home of the School of Business & Management, Associate Director Stephen Pomeroy reflected on the value of the visit to Pioneer Investments and Neptune Garment Co. “Real-world experience reinforces what students learn in class, and this is especially important in finance, economics, and business management.”

School of Business & Management Director Najiba Benebess reflects on the trip to Boston more broadly, in context to the university’s connections and academic leadership.

“This is the type of experiential and theory-to-practice education learning we like to emphasize,” she said. “The School of Business & Management welcomes and encourages our alumni, our friends, and our extended families to help students become successful by sharing their knowledge and expertise.”

During her leave, Dr. Aimee Vieira conducted site visits to rural amenity communities in Quebec, New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont, for data collection on: property ownership; demographic change; commercial business operations and signage; and economic development activities. These site visits augmented data secured from the Census Bureau, Statistics Canada, various public records, as well as digital and print media. With the wealth of data amassed, she was able to conduct analyses of qualitative visual data and quantitative data, as well as explore mapping techniques to interrogate the information collected, for a subset of the U.S.-based study sites. As a result of her work while on leave, Dr. Vieira has chapters forthcoming in two edited volumes. She also completed a book review for Rural Sociology, presented multiple research-in-progress papers at professional meetings, has several articles under development for various journals, and has been approached by a publisher for a possible monograph.

Dr. Reina Pennington made substantial progress on her manuscript, a nonfiction work of history that examines the surprising lessons in military history that the Russian and Soviet experience has to offer. In it, she argues that from the emergence of Muscovy through the Soviet era to the present day, Russian and Soviet military history offers perspective and insight into major issues in the study of warfare. The book examines a variety of key aspects of war by using case studies from Russian and Soviet military history. Offense versus defense; treatment of civilians; motivation of soldiers; racial integration in the armed forces; the unpredictability of war -- all are examined through the Russian lens. 

In the late summer and early fall of 2015, Dr. Richard Dunn conducted a geological mapping and drilling campaign at the site of ancient Jaffa, in Tel Aviv, Israel.  This activity involved work with international colleagues, including researchers from UCLA, Texas A&M, Haifa University, and independent consultants from Israel and Germany. In late September he returned to Haifa, Israel, to work in the Recanati Institute for Marine Studies, University of Haifa, on the description, photography, and sampling of all cores recovered during drilling. Samples were shipped to Norwich where Dr. Dunn undertook a number of analyses. As a result of his work, he co-authored a paper, currently under revision, on the archaeological geology of Jaffa and its paleo-environmental setting. He also wrote the first draft of monograph chapters on the geology and land use records for the ancient quarry site on Easter Island.   The monograph is a large compilation of all the work by the Easter Island Statue Project that has been conducted over the last two decades. This draft resulted in the compilation of information that was then used as the basis for three professional talks

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