College of Business completes first Global Business Academy

Samantha Ye

Any summer school featuring whitewater rafting, baseball games and advanced high-tech business simulations is a unique learning opportunity indeed–at least that’s what the organizers of the first Global Business Academy were shooting for.

From July 8-20, 39 high school students from a variety of countries came to Colorado State University to attend the new annual program created by the College of Business.

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In the first week, students busted out of escape rooms, jumped off 30-foot rope course walls and watched a Rockies baseball game at Coors Field. This was in addition to attending hour-long business lectures taught by select CSU faculty.

“All around, we wanted it be an eye-opening experience (for students), both to what their opportunities are in the world, as well as an eye-opening experience as to who they truly are and what they can do,” said Scott Shrake, faculty director of the program.

Academy lectures taught both “hard” skills, like business innovation, and “soft” skills, like hope and leadership, Shrake said.

The more recreational activities were designed to team-build by teaching students about their own capabilities, said Christine Chin, program director. Those activities also offered students the chance to see different industries up close.

For example, students were able to observe some of the broadcast production behind the Rockies’ game and speak with various companies during the trip to Denver.

The program cost $4,000 this year to attend, but scholarships and various sponsorships were provided.

Program co-founder Gary Howard first conceptualized the GBA when living in France where his daughters went to school. There, he became a strong believer in exposing kids to international experiences.

With 14 international students, a 50/50 gender balance and students of various socioeconomic backgrounds, the first GBA group had the intended diversity Howard hoped to expose students to.

For Denver student Ulisses Rico-Moncada, meeting students from other countries was fun, from hearing different accents to discovering surprising similarities, like music tastes. But, it was also applicable to the business world.

“One phrase stuck out to me: It’s not the culture, it’s a culture,” Rico-Moncada said. “We gotta respect the other cultures in global businesses, and sometimes our culture is not the right culture.”

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The program itself is based on a similar academy in INSEAD, an international graduate business school, but altered to suit the strengths of CSU.

The CSU version is designed to help students discover what the business field is all about, more importantly, if they like the field, said Howard and co-founder Bryan Sorge.

Too many high school students go into a college business major not truly knowing if it suits them, creating costly and inefficient “false starts,” the founders said. Whether the students love or hate business, the GBA’s goal is to expose them to their passions before they make life decisions based on them.

For those who realize they are not into business, GBA also imparts other general skills such as negotiation and personal finance.

In support of that goal, the structure of the Academy was based on skill application.

Within the first few days, students were pre-split into teams and had to create a product prototype based on a consumer need and pitch the idea before a panel of judges. The “Ram Rumble,” as it was called, was a purposefully intense, time-crunch experience.  

man standing before students
Adrian Johnson, INSEAD professor of entrepreneurship, prepares the team leaders of the Bee Car game for a roleplay segment. Students take on roles of different potential customers and get interviewed by different teams so those teams may discover what the customer really wants out of car. Teams later decide if and how they want to appeal to said customer. (Ashley Potts | Collegian)

In days following, students learned and strengthened their skills to prepare for the final simulation: the Bee Car game.

Developed by education technology company, seriesIMPACT, the game is a next generation application of the traditional case methodology; or a “live case,” as creator Adrian Johnson called it.

Instead of reading about a business situation and discussing it, the game puts the student teams directly into the management roles of a startup hoping to produce electric, self-driving “Bee Cars.”

Johnson flew in from France to run the game, which took up the last few days of the academy.

Students had less than four days to create a comprehensive strategy presentation for their product. They went through roleplays, meetings and interviews to get in-depth experience at identifying key markets, dealing with the unexpected disasters, and convincing stakeholders to give them money, among many other vital business skills.

Teams accumulated at maximum 600 points over four days for a final winner.

Johnson’s various live cases have been used by many companies and professionals, but high school students have the benefit of coming in more open minded, he said.

“The group is very dynamic and enthusiastic and full of energy, and those are key ingredients to, on one hand, enjoying the experience and also being able to learn,” Johnson said.

The game was the ultimate test of the skills and relationships students had built up over their two weeks together.

Citlaly Quiroz, humans resources manager of the winning startup, said she found it amazing how her group functioned as a team.

“I’ve gotten to know a couple people, and they’ve been really cool and really nice and very supportive, and I really enjoy that,” Quiroz said. “Hopefully, it’s like that in the workforce as well.”

Miriam Schauer, a student from the Netherlands, discovered she could “be pretty bossy sometimes,” but also how she liked a challenge even when she was afraid of it.

“It’s not only what I learned about myself but I learned what to be,” Schauer said.

Even though her group, Schauer said, was not harmonic, they respected each other and that was what a good team needs.

During her GBA graduation speech, Schauer said she had come into the program hoping to meet at least three cool people. The camp had far exceeded those hopes.

“I don’t really know what I expected but I learned way more and I met way more amazing people than I thought I would meet,” Schauer said. “I really think I’m going to have some life long friends from here.”

Collegian reporter Samantha Ye can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @samxye4.