Sometimes the best way to learn is to step out of the classroom.
Last summer’s trip to Italy inspired Lucinda Alexander to do that. Alexander is an associate professor in Pellissippi State Community College’s Business Administration degree program.
Through the Pellissippi State–based Tennessee Consortium of International Studies—an organization of colleges and universities focused on boosting international cultural awareness in Tennessee higher education—Alexander took students from her Business Functions course on tours of several businesses in Siena and Rome. They visited a winery, a leather factory, a cheese factory, the oldest bank in Europe and the U.S. Embassy in Rome.
Her impression: The students loved it, and they learned more in a class that blends company visits and lectures. With the help of seven Knoxville businesses, Alexander duplicated the experience locally for spring semester’s class.
This time, the students visited Siemens, Food City, American Boat Center, SunTrust Bank, Claris Networks, Radio Systems and Scripps Networks Interactive.
At a trip to Siemens, for example, Tim Wheelock, Knoxville director of operations, gave the class a tour of the facility where the global electronics and electrical engineering company used lean manufacturing to cut production of its PET scanner from 40 days to four days.
“You cannot see that in a classroom,” said Alexander.
Student Tanner Rice agrees. “Learning in the classroom is great, but when you get out and see [business practices] in action, you see how [a concept] is applied,” he said.
Classroom terms become buzz words that managers use regularly in the workplace. Joseph Arnold noticed that on the tours.
“Words that we use in classes, they use like a second language,” Arnold said.
Noah Hall was impressed by the long hours that business employees work—typically 60 hours or more per week—as well as by the risks and sacrifices entrepreneurs endure to achieve success.
The company tours brought students face to face with company owners and top managers. It gave class members a chance to learn how those leaders achieved their positions, what they consider important in managing a company and what they look for in employees.
“Through visiting these companies, we came to realize that business is primarily about seeing a need and doing the best job possible in meeting that need,” said student Brandy James. “If you do this well, the money will follow.”
Alexander says another goal of the class is to expose students to all areas of business so they can choose the best major and career for them.
“The experience absolutely beat all expectations,” said Alexander. “The companies were absolutely terrific. When we talked about any topic in class, we could refer to a live example that we had seen on one of the company visits. Pellissippi is closer to these businesses because of this connection, building those long-term relationships that the students learned so much about.”