Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business took first place in the 2017 Richmond ACG Cup competition held on February 21, 2017 at the offices of presenting sponsor, Williams Mullen. VCU team members included Executive MBA students Catherine Brisland, Thomas Cleary, Greg Creel, Sarah Crews and Keith Perkins. Associate Professor Greg Waller served as the team’s advisor. In addition to the first place scholarship award of $2,250, Virginia Commonwealth University earned the right to display the Richmond ACG Cup Trophy for the next year.
The Richmond ACG Cup is a unique case study competition designed to give students from the commonwealth’s leading MBA programs invaluable insight into mergers and acquisitions, investment banking, and private equity.
Four MBA teams competed for $5,000 in scholarship money for their schools. University of Richmond placed second, winning a $1,250 school scholarship; The College of William & Mary’s Mason School of Business placed third, winning $1,000. The finalist team from Virginia Tech earned $500.
You won’t get very far with even the greatest idea if you can’t present it well. That’s the thinking behind Creative Communication by Design, one of the original winners of the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business’ EPIC Challenge.
This year, Creative Communication by Design launched its own challenge for students — the Creative Communication Competition. On Feb. 3, 15 School of Business students competed for cash prizes by presenting on everything from fuel cells and whiskey to 401(k)s and tattoos.The event was a pilot for what the team hopes will become a larger, annual event, said team member Shannon Mitchell.“The Creative Communication by Design team develops School of Business graduates to be great creative problem solvers who can sell their ideas to investors, colleagues, clients and customers,” she said.
Contestants in the competition all completed the School of Business’ Winning Presentations — a course in which professional actors teach business students techniques to improve their communication and presentation skills. The friendly competition gives these students a venue to hone their skills after leaving the course while generating a common understanding of what a great presentation looks like among students and faculty. It further develops VCU business students as excellent presenters.
Interested students first submitted a one-paragraph description of their topic. After an initial screening, they received one-on-one coaching from Marisa Guida, course coordinator for Winning Presentations. Students whose skills were not competitive were not permitted to go forward.
Tammie Goode, a junior marketing major, won the prize for best overall presentation for “Qatar Leadership Exchange.”
Marketing senior Vanesa Luis-Guerra presented “VCU Backpacking Abroad Program,” which won the award for the most persuasive presentation.
Sara Falzone’s “Stuck at the Sunflower Table” earned the senior marketing major the award for best use of story in a speech.
Judging the competition were Alison Linas, assistant commonwealth’s attorney for Hanover County; Ryann Lofchie, chairwoman of The Frontier Project Group of Companies and CEO of Frontier Academy; Suzanne C. Makarem, Ph.D., associate professor of marketing; Regina Nguyen, director of marketing and property manager for SugarOak Management; S. Douglas Pugh, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of the Department of Management; and Sammy Santosh, account manager of Torx Media.
Creative Communication by Design comprises Mitchell, Guida, Laurel Adams and Sam Seeley from the School of Business and Aaron Anderson and David Leong from the School of the Arts.
In addition to coaching students on writing and presentation skills, the Creative Communication by Design team proposes developing capacity of faculty members to inspire creativity in their students and elicit great communication skills, and continuing field research on best practices in business communication to bring the results back to the classroom.
One day, long before the VCU School of Business enacted its EPIC strategic plan to promote creativity, Ken Kahn, senior associate dean, gave a light bulb — the symbol of ideas — to every faculty and staff member. It was a reminder that sometimes constraints kill ideas before they’re ever born and so faculty and staff should remain vigilant.
Suzanne C. Makarem, Ph.D., associate professor of marketing, and the 2016–2017 creativity czar, turned her light bulb into a necklace Feb. 10 to show her VCU School of Business pride. She did this on the final day of the school’s recent Creative Sprint, a 10-day challenge where faculty, staff and students were encouraged to create something different each day.
As czar, Makarem collaborated with a handful of colleagues to create each day’s challenge. Unlike a similar 30-day sprint held in the fall, this one was School of Business-centric.
“The 30-day one was done for the whole nation, everyone could participate,” she said. “This one was specific to the School of Business … we tried to link it a little bit to the way we think about things. And we tried to spread the word more and make it only 10 days.”
Day 1: Make something that fits into the palm of your hand using the materials in your immediate environment
Day 2: Make something with or inspired by coins, any coins you can get your hands on
Day 3: Make something using or inspired by Sticky Notes
Day 4 : Make something inspired by a graph or chart
Day 5: Start something and have someone else finish it
Day 6: Find a creative way to pay someone a compliment or say “thank you!”
Day 7: Make something inspired by a business hero or the person who inspired you to join the business school
Day 8: Make something and leave it for someone else to discover
Day 9: Have someone teach you something you don’t know and do it
Day 10: Make something that shows your VCU School of Business pride
The group added incentives, such as prizes each day, and created a Facebook page where participants could post their creations.
“We made it more collaborative,” Makarem said.
About 200 people joined the Facebook group. Some participated all 10 days, but others could pick which days they wanted to contribute based on the task. A table was set up in the Snead Hall atrium for one hour every day to remind passersby of the sprint and give them a place to create.
“People would come to the table and say, ‘Oh this is so cool,’” Makarem said. “Even the ones who didn’t create were like, ‘Oh, it’s so cool that we’re doing this.’”
Prizewinners were selected randomly — an important distinction to Makarem.
“It wasn’t based on judging the work,” she said. “And that’s what creativity is all about, putting ideas out there and not being shut down. So there was no prize based on judging what you did. It was just random.
“In the midst of all that creativity is fun.”
“Seeing everybody’s creations was just fun and one of the comments I kept getting was ‘this is fun.’ It’s part of our culture. It is creating that culture and environment of creativity and also training our brain, but in the midst of all that creativity is fun. And when you do what you do while having fun, that’s when you’re the best at it.”
The world’s largest global education network has recognized a Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business program as an innovation that inspires. Monday at its 2017 Deans Conference, AACSB International unveiled 35 innovations that represent critical work being done by business schools to better their communities and society at large. The VCU School of Business was recognized for its artist-in-residence program, in which celebrated artist Noah Scalin helped the school institute its new strategic plan, and its effort to drive the future of business through the power of creativity.
“It’s wonderful that the School of Business recognizes the transformative power of art,” Scalin said. “The opportunity for connection, collaboration and dialogue allows the students to have a more in-depth learning experience, which will not only enhance their classroom experiences, but their lives beyond the school’s walls as well.”
As the 2016–2017 artist-in-residence, Scalin has conducted several creative-thinking seminars, delivered guest lectures, spearheaded creative sprint challenges and created a large-scale artwork installation with students. These projects connected VCU School of Business students, faculty and staff with elements of the strategic plan through experiential learning, problem-solving curricula, impactful research and creative culture.
“Having an artist-in-residence is unique for a business school and distinguishes VCU as a leader in combining business and creativity,” said Ed Grier, dean of the VCU School of Business. “Creativity is one of the most sought-after skills for 21st-century leaders. VCU is at the cutting edge in recognizing the value that an artist’s perspective can bring to problem-solving and ideation in the business world.”
The second annual Innovations That Inspire initiative recognizes institutions serving as champions of change in business education. A total of 315 submissions were received from 33 countries, mirroring society’s growing global demands, as well as the critical need for strong, connected and forward-thinking business schools. The initiative, and the impressive work it showcases, underscores the important role that innovation plays in achieving the industrywide vision for business education, which AACSB unveiled in 2016.
“This year’s Innovations That Inspire initiative has highlighted the groundbreaking and commanding influence that AACSB’s member schools can have on the world when they focus their attention on creating impactful ideas for all of society,” said Tom R. Robinson, president and CEO of AACSB International. “We are honored to highlight the VCU School of Business’ innovation as a pioneer in the business education landscape, and use them as an example for how AACSB’s schools are facilitators for innovation and leadership.”
For a detailed overview of the featured innovations, visit www.AACSB.edu/Innovations-That-Inspire. In addition to the named 35, AACSB will continue to share exemplary practices that highlight the remarkable efforts underway to transform business education via its award-winning BizEd magazine, AACSB LINK newsletter, the AACSB Blog and its global advocacy and awareness building initiatives.
The Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business will focus on a changing workforce at the 11th Annual Risk and Insurance Studies Center Trends Conference.
“Navigating Risks & Challenges of a Changing Workforce” will take place Tuesday, March 7, at Snead Hall, 301 W. Main St., first floor. Registration opens at 7:15 a.m.
Keynote speakers are Antonio Canas and Janet L. Walsh, Ph.D.
Canas, a self-described “insurance nerd,” blogger and speaker, is a prominent voice of the millennial generation in the insurance industry, helping it understand how to engage this large demographic that will soon make up more than 50 percent of the workforce.
Walsh is CEO and president of Birchtree Global, a business services firm that provides the legal, financial, tax and human capital infrastructure for globalizing businesses. She is also an adjunct professor of global business in the executive MBA program at the New York Institute of Technology.
“This year’s RISC Conference will explore and address many of the talent risk exposures facing organizations,” said Tim Cook, director for the Risk and Insurance Studies Center at the VCU School of Business. “Attracting and retaining quality employees moves an organization from good to great. The conference will provide insight into the challenges associated with talent risks by presenting a variety of topics, including the overall exposures of an organization, analyzing data, creating the future workplace, the impact of wellness and navigating the changes with the incoming millennial talent.” The conference is open to all and is geared toward insurance, risk management and human resource professionals. Sponsorship and proceeds from the conference provide for student development, enrichment and scholarships.
“What do you do when you see the color red? Stop. If there were a fire, would you want to stop?” asked Dubitsky, the VCU School of Business 2016 executive-in-residence. “It kills me. It drives me crazy. My level of agitation with these things is what’s driven me.”
Dubitsky, founder and CEO of Hello Products, a line of friendly, natural oral health care products, sees the design of everything, everywhere.
There is no such thing as a boring category, he said. People care about everything. In his case, it’s exit signs.
“Politics isn’t boring,” he said. “We care about everything. If you care about it how can it be boring? Everything is art. Life imitates art. Let’s create the art we want in our everyday lives. … You’ve got to make whatever you’re working on look awesome. If it isn’t cultural, emotional, economically relevant, it’s not innovative. If no one [cares], it doesn’t matter.”
“Everything is art. Life imitates art.”
People need to feel something, he stressed. If creatives don’t feel something first, how can they expect anyone else to feel passionate about their products? What’s more, the bar is set low everywhere.
“Most things kind of suck,” Dubitsky said.
The good news is innovation and opportunities are hiding in plain site.
Take the oral health care industry. Dubitsky found it not only unfriendly but downright offensive, with its aggressive marketing and packaging that promises to kill, eliminate and destroy odor, germs and bacteria.
“I was like, WTF?” Dubitsky said, noting that the global icon for good oral health is an extracted tooth. “Where’s the function, freshness, fashion, flavor?”
So Dubitsky created Hello toothpaste, which tastes awesome and does the same job as harsher products, but with healthier ingredients.
“No one was doing that. No one’s made toothpaste you can eat,” he said before squeezing about two tablespoons of Hello’s fluoride-free paste into his mouth and eating it.
Hello Products was named one of the top challenger brands — small brands that disrupt bigger brands — two years in a row, by the Challenger Project. But Dubitsky doesn’t want to be a challenger, he wants to be a questioner: “Why the hell wasn’t it always like this?” he asked.
“Innovation is word that gets abused a lot,” Dubitsky said. “Most people think innovation is technical. To me innovation is creating something that people fall in love with. We’re winning on an emotional level. Its an emotional innovation.”
The key, he said, is cultural currency — knowing what people want before they do.
Prior to launching New Jersey-based Hello Products, Dubitsky disrupted the home products industry as a founding board member of green-cleaning upstart Method Products and created a sensation again as co-founder of lip and skincare maker eos Products.
He met the Method founders when they were just two guys making soap in their bathroom.
Congrats and best wishes to Diya Abraham, Subhash Jaini, Garima Oza, Praveen Sreepuram and Khai Wisler, Decision Analytics Program, Department of Supply Chain Management and Analytics, School of Business. The Decision Analytics students formed a team that is one of five finalists for the Governor’s Workforce Innovation Datathon Challenge.
In August, the team faced off against 16 teams from across the state in the two-day live analytics challenge. The teams had two days to take a new, highly enriched and curated Jobs Demand dataset and turn it into actionable information to support the governor’s goal of filling the more than 250,000 open jobs in Virginia’s postindustrial service economy.
Five teams from various businesses and professional organizations, including the VCU students, were selected to move to the pitching and judging round, which will happen Sept. 7.
“Part of what we hope you’ll learn from this experience is that it is mostly your initiatives that will make the biggest differences in this world,” VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D., said to the fellows at a welcome reception Monday. “A world full of people who absolutely, positively need your leadership, need your initiative and need you to be thoughtful about their concerns.”
The School of Business will host 25 fellows in a business and entrepreneurship institute. Fellows will attend sessions in Snead Hall with VCU faculty members and business practitioners to gain knowledge in critical topic areas such as creativity and ideation, entrepreneurship, brand management, analytics, technology, grants and more. In addition, fellows will be out-and-about in the business community with site visits such as Luck Stone, Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce and Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.
Each fellow is matched with a peer collaborator from the local business community for networking and information sharing. In addition, International Coaching Federation-certified coach Lynn Ellen Queen of Queen & Associates, recruited 44 professional coaches from around the world to provide 10 one-on-one coaching sessions to each fellow — two sessions in the U.S. and eight once the fellows have returned to their home countries.
The other 25 fellows will participate in the public management and leadership institute through the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs. This institute will expose participants to world-renowned scholars in the fields of governance, management, administration and leadership across the public and nonprofit sectors.
“We hope that the inspiration that has already begun to formulate in you will flourish completely and will enable you become the strongest leaders imaginable,” Rao said. “If VCU can be a small part of strengthening your ability to truly make a difference in the lives of millions of others, then we feel wonderful about that.”
The combined cohort of fellows will attend the 54th annual Independence Day Celebration and Naturalization Ceremony at Monticello on July 4 and were also welcomed at a special reception hosted by Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and first lady Dorothy McAuliffe at the Governor’s Mansion on July 20.
The fellows at VCU are part of a larger group of 1,000 being hosted across the U.S. this summer. Upon completion of their program, these exceptional young leaders will meet with President Obama during a summit in Washington, D.C. Select fellows will also receive hands-on experience through six-week placements with U.S. companies, organizations and government agencies.
Fellows are young leaders from Sub-Saharan Africa who have a proven record of accomplishment in promoting innovation and positive change in their organizations, institutions or communities.
The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is a U.S. government program that is supported in its implementation by the International Research & Exchanges Board, an international nonprofit organization that provides leadership and innovative programs to improve the quality of education, strengthen independent media and foster pluralistic civil society development.
For more information about the Mandela Washington Fellowship, visit yali.state.gov and join the conversation with #YALI2016.
Manoj A. Thomas, Ph.D.
Assistant professor and director of technology Department of Information Systems
School of Business
Microsoft recently granted Manoj Thomas two $20,000 Microsoft Azure research awards. The first award is to assess consumer sentiment about medical marijuana in social media. He will collaborate with VCU doctoral student Dapeng Liu. The second award is for a Continuing Medical Education capacity building, on which he will work with Mahabir Pun, winner of the renowned Magsaysay Award, a prize that celebrates transformative leadership in Asia. Both projects will use different Microsoft Azure-based technologies.
Thomas has been involved in information and communication technology projects around the world and his research has been published and presented internationally.
At its May 20, 2016 board meeting, the VCU School of Business Foundation elected two new trustees. Welcome!
William F. Gifford, Jr. (B.S.’92/ACCT) Chief Financial Officer Altria Group, Inc.
Billy Gifford serves as Chief Financial Officer, Altria Group. In this role, Gifford is responsible for the Accounting, Tax, Treasury, Audit, Investor Relations, Finance Decision Support and Strategy & Business Development organizations. He also oversees the financial services business of Philip Morris Capital Corporation. He most recently was Senior Vice President, Strategy & Business Development.
Since joining Philip Morris USA in 1994, Gifford has served in numerous leadership roles in Finance, Marketing Information & Consumer Research and as President and Chief Executive Officer of PM USA. Prior to that, he was Vice President and Treasurer for Altria. In this role, Gifford led various groups at Altria Client Services including Risk Management, Treasury Management, Benefits Investments, Corporate Finance and Corporate Financial Planning & Analysis.
Gifford received a bachelors degree in accounting from Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business in 1992. Prior to PM USA, he worked at the public accounting firm of Coopers & Lybrand, now known as PricewaterhouseCoopers.
He serves on the Board of Trustees of the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges.
John D. O’Neill, Jr. Partner Hunton & Williams
John O’Neill’s practice focuses on public-private infrastructure development, public finance, capital finance and complex commercial lending. Substantial experience in structuring transactions for a broad range of public and private infrastructure projects, including airports, roads and highways, convention and conference centers, educational facilities, government administrative facilities and water and wastewater facilities.
O’Neill received his B.A. from the University of Richmond and his J.D. from the Pepperdine University School of Law. He is a member of the American Bar Association, the Virginia Bar Association, the Richmond Bar Association, the National Association of Bond Lawyers, and a member and past president of the Bond Club of Virginia.