Small business competition encourages hands-on learning

By Jennifer Boyer

Undergrad students Molly Podosek, James Butrico and Meghan Monte present their business plan.

Rider graduates and undergraduates participated in the annual Small Business Institute Project of the Year competition. Rider students placed in the top five with graduate and undergraduate teams.

Aiming to help students develop skills by mixing theory and practice, the competition rewards college programs for their successes.

The Small Business Institute encourages students to be involved with experiential learning through consulting projects. Colleges and universities are able to set up teams for the competition.

Ronald Cook, professor of the department of management, said, “One was an undergrad project, taught in my undergrad consulting class and one was the grad project, taught in my grad consulting class.”

Each school is only allowed to submit two projects per year, in various categories. The project targets graduate and undergraduate students who seek real- world experience. The projects consist of lengthy reports that are usually between 60-90 pages.

Molly Podosek, a graduate student from Rider, said, “Our team worked together very well. It can be difficult to work so closely with strangers, but the farther we got into the project, the better we worked together.”

The Project of the Year competition allowed Podosek to gain real world knowledge while getting credit for it at Rider. She was able to get out of her comfort zone by working so closely with strangers.

“I learned many things including communication, teamwork, problem solving and about thinking in a more strategic way,” said Podosek.

The project helped Podosek find internships and guide her down a career path in business. The competition helped her frame her way of thinking differently about company problems and goals.

“The projects entered into the competition come from my student consulting class,” said Cook. “In this class, students become outside consultants to area firms or organizations and learn the consulting process and help these clients solve problems.”

The competition offers many benefits for students, here at Rider. They are able to gain national recognition and publicity, acknowledging their outstanding work and achievements.

Since 1998, the university has shown major improvements over the years. Rider has had 30 top 10 or better winners in both graduate and undergraduate categories.

“Since 2009, nine Rider graduate teams have finished in the top four in the country, including two first-place finishes,” Cook said. “Since 2010, Rider undergraduate teams have finished in the top 10 eight times, including one national championship and three third place finishes.”

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