Two Northern Michigan University students utilized their summer employment connections to secure virtual guest speakers from two prominent companies for NMU's Introduction to Business class taught by instructor Corinne Bodeman. One presentation resulted in a donation to the NMU Food Pantry.
NMU senior Sarah Kendall of Faribault, Minn., connected Bodeman with two guest speakers from Post Consumer Brands (Post), an American cereal manufacturer. The company's senior manufacturing manager and manager of operations delivered the presentation and sent approximately 200 single-serve containers of Post cereals in advance. About 150 were donated to the NMU Food Pantry, with the rest taken home by students enrolled in the course.
“I was not anticipating a donation—let alone such a generous one,” said Bodeman. “During the interview, I asked permission for the leftovers to go to NMU's Food Pantry. They said, ‘Yes, that's what we do it for.'”
“I thought it was a really great idea to send such a large amount, given the university context,” added Kendall. “What better way to not waste the food than to give it back to students on campus and in the community who need it? Post already does a lot of food donations, so having its cereal go to another worthy cause is a great way to show what the company does.”
Sydney Shoemaker, an NMU senior entrepreneurship major, connected Bodeman with two Plascore, Inc. employees: the director of materials and head of engineering. Plascore is a global manufacturer of honeycomb core, honeycomb panels, composite structures and cleanrooms.
Bodeman said it is important to connect classroom concepts with real-world examples, such as by bringing in guests from outside businesses as speakers in her classes.
“I wanted to expose the students to the field of operations because, as far as I am concerned, it is otherwise ‘magic' that cereal ends up on a shelf and that cleanrooms are installed in manufacturing facilities. Without an idea of operations management, you would have no idea what goes into the production of a $3.59 box of cereal. That is why I love having guest speakers from outside businesses. It allows for theoretical academic concepts to connect to the real world.”
Bodeman was excited to share that many specific terms her students were learning and using in the class were also brought up by the guest speakers.
“To me, nothing beats the experience of having guests like these solidify concepts that students learn in class. Even further, it allows students to see how those concepts really work in the real world. I like for students to see that there are real jobs in operations that tie to concepts learned in the classroom. The speakers talked about scheduling, purchasing, just-in-time inventory management, supply chain and more.”
“With these being two businesses from beyond the Upper Peninsula region, it was really great to connect with outside world influences through a virtual meeting,” said Bodeman. “None of this would have happened without the two NMU seniors. If they hadn't had the guts to reach out, we wouldn't have had the guest speakers. That is a learning experience within and of itself about the power of connections.”
Although Kendall was not enrolled in the Introduction to Business course, she has previously taken classes taught by Bodeman. She said that she sat in on the presentation.
“I was pretty glad I could help Professor Bodeman,” said Kendall. “I was surprised when she came asking to use my connection. She knew that I had facility work experience and knowledge, and she wanted a variety among real-world examples for her students to be exposed to.
“Variety is great for students because it helps prepare them academically and mentally to know the different avenues available to them. Before the presentation, some students might not have thought about working in a manufacturing setting. It was certainly a great learning opportunity.”
Kendall is a business management major and hospitality service management minor. She is a Dean's Advisory Council member. She has worked at Post Consumer Brands for the past four summers as a seasonal general laborer. After graduating from NMU, she is scheduled to complete a six-week internship in London this summer doing public relations and marketing for two restaurants. Read more about her NMU story here.