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Student interest in business clubs increases

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The business clubs on campus have seen a great increase in interest with the new incoming class this year.

At the beginning of this semester, students filled up Science Center 199 at the info meeting of Redefine Her Street, a business club on campus that supports women in economics.

“It was like crazy. I was like, this is too good to be true,” said Irene Xiang ’18, one of the co-founders and board members of Redefine Her Street.

The consulting group on campus, 180 Degrees Consulting, has also seen an increase in interested students. They had 39 students who applied to join the group this year, of which they accepted 12.

“This year the acceptance rate is 33 percent. Usually it’s 40 to 50 percent. The acceptance rate is lower this year even though we took a lot more applicants this year,” said president Simran Singh ’19. “Half of new incomings are freshmen, which is pretty rare,” said Singh.

On the Handshake Recruitment System used by the Career Services Office, students need to indicate their career preferences when they first register. A search of the system also shows the interest of first-year students in business.

Thirty-six of the 99 first-year students who have registered have indicated an interest in business careers, ” said director of career services Nancy Burkett.

180 Degree Consulting started four years ago, while Redefine Her Street started two years ago. As more and more Redefine Her Street members obtain internships and jobs, their credentials and credibility have grown, and so it has become easier to recruit incoming students.

“Once [we] have more upperclassmen …  we can talk about our credentials. ‘Okay, so this is where our members have interned.’ That’s definitely made us look more credible,” said Xiang.

However, Xiang believes the growing interest could also be due to student groups on campus being more active.

“I don’t know if it’s a trend, to be honest. I think it helps that there are more student groups on campus. We only started recently. But I think like other groups like 180 [Degrees] and Clarus [another business club] are recently getting more and more active. I think that’s definitely helped. I think there’s always been an interest in those areas, but it’s definitely got more encouraged by the formation of these groups that are well-formed and providing good resources,” said Xiang.

The freshmen who joined the business clubs are generally interested in going into consulting, finance, and other business-related fields after graduating.

I do see myself getting into professional consulting after graduation for a few years, with the eventual goal of establishing a small business or nonprofit of my own one day,” said Connor Gill ’21, one of the six first-years who joined 180 Degrees this year.

Isabelle Ewart ’20 joined Redefine Her Street this year. She is not completely certain that she would work in finance but does have an interest in the field. But she is also concerned with the potential setbacks of attending a liberal arts college when it comes to entering business-related fields.

Swarthmore’s liberal arts education is helping me achieve this goal because it provides me with a diverse education. I am, however, worried about getting my ‘foot in the door’ for a finance career because Swarthmore is a small liberal arts school, and finance is such a competitive industry. Many other young people looking for these finance jobs come from finance-oriented schools,” said Ewart.

Swarthmore, as a liberal arts college, does not offer any majors related to business or finance. The closest major is economics, and there are only two business classes offered at the college. According to Xiang, these student groups realize the students’ needs and strive to meet them.

“We have bi-weekly meetings. That’s where we provide updates on the market in terms of what’s going on, like financial news. We also provide workshops, like technical workshops and soft skills workshops. We also have a meet-and-greet series to speak to accomplished alums. So basically it’s like a class, but much less formal,” said Xiang.

180 Degrees Consulting, on the other hand, set their first and foremost goal to create social impact.

“This is a way of dipping your toes but still a way to increase social impact, which is what I think a lot of Swatties are interested in. I think there is a misnomer and predisposition that you’re selling out if you go into consulting or finance. I think 180 is a great opportunity to understand what consulting and working with small businesses and organizations is, in a way that still allows you to be doing good for your community,” said Singh.

This emphasis on social impact was exactly what first drew Gill to join the group.

[180 Degrees Consulting] seemed like a fantastic program aimed at helping students gain valuable consulting experience, while at the same time providing struggling small firms with free consulting service — a “win-win” in my eyes. … Also, the diversity of projects that they work on really impressed me, from global non-profit social impact groups to local small businesses,” said Gill.

Redefine Her Street attracts students with similar needs.

[Redefine Her Street] is a support group of women with similar ideals and career goals. Finance is also a heavily male-dominated industry, and it is great to know that there is a club of women who are driven to enter a finance career. The experience so far has been great: the meetings are very informative, and we have access to unique networking and learning opportunities,” said Ewart.

180 Degrees and Redefine Her Street both try particularly  to meet the needs of first-years, since there are more of them involved this year.

“Some of the professional skills, like knowing how to dress, like knowing how to construct a resume, knowing how to present well — I think a lot of those skills are acquired over time. So I think a lot of the times, we take extra attention …  are the freshmen are coming in with those skills? Or is something we need to pay attention [to] and give them extra time to do?” said Singh.

“Obviously, everyone who goes here is not studying finance. Even if it’s econ, it’s only marginally closer. For them [Redefine Her Street members], the goal is to learn the lingo and the difference of the terminologies, what are the current deals that are going on that are important to know.” said Xiang.

To meet the increased interest in business, Career Services also has been creating events and programs to help students.

On the whole, we have seen an increase in student interest in business careers over the past five years and have offered [programs] as a way to help students network with alumni and prepare for the competitive application process in these fields,” said Burkett.

However, she also mentioned the importance of being open to other career possibilities. There are resources that either student groups or Career Services can provide if students ever want to explore their fitting career paths, interests, values, and other ways they can make a difference or have meaningful impact.

SwatTank allows students to showcase their entrepreneurial skills

in Around Campus/News by

On Friday April 7th, faculty, staff, students, and alumni gathered to watch teams of students be thrown into the SwatTank. In the fifth annual SwatTank, four groups of 2 to 3 students presented 4 minute pitches about business proposals they had prepared and answered 15 minutes worth of questions from judges and the audience. Following the pitches, the judges deliberated and handed out prize money: $3,000 for first place, $1,500 for second place, $500 for third place, and $250 for fourth place.

This year, first place was SwitchBoard, a social media platform. Switchboard was followed by New Dae Farms, a cricket farm; Collab, which created on-site child care in co-work spaces, and Zing, which wanted to add solar paneled chargers around campus, respectively.

Although the innovation competition is the big event for SwatTank, the process really begins in October with Innovation Incubators where students begin to think about their ideas and start working on their business plans. Over the following months, the students work with the Center for Innovation and Leadership, Career Services, alumni mentors, and many others to create an in-depth business plan for their idea.

“At a glance, SwatTank is just an innovation competition. You come up with an idea, you pitch it, see what kind of traction you get with that idea, and I think all of that is true, but the skills that the students are honing in this process are a lot more than that,” said Director of the CIL Katie Clark during her opening remarks at the competition.  “The range of skill sets is public speaking, it’s design, it’s building relationships, working on a team, figuring out how to market a complicated idea, so that other people believe you and buy in, and the students have done a really good job of doing that this year.”

President Valerie Smith also spoke at the beginning of the event, and emphasized how events like SwatTank demonstrate the values of a liberal arts institution.

“I believe that teaching innovation is a seamless fit with the liberal arts because the process naturally develops many of the skills that a liberal arts education is meant  to cultivate. Most significantly, liberal arts colleges and universities have as their main mission the goal of teaching students to think critically, to write and to speak persuasively, to solve problems, and to work in collaboration with others,” said Smith.

Smith also identified both preparing for the unexpected and helping form productive and responsible members of society as liberal arts goals that SwatTank helps to accomplish.

The first group to present was Zing, which included Gus Burchell ’20, Natasha Markkov-Rizz ’20, and Roman Shemakov ’20. Zing aimed to bring solar powered charging stations to college campuses to help improve student quality of life and to promote green energy.

“I think through this process the main thing I’ve learned at least is the importance of being able to pivot and being able to be flexible and not being married to these ideas. We started off as a Ukrainian micro-finance firm. So I think we were just really open to this isn’t going to work let’s try something else,” said Markkov-Rizz.

Next to present go was Collab, which was established by Seimi Park ’20, Michelle Ma ’20, and Meiri Anto ’17. This group’s business plan was aimed at providing on-site child care at co-working spaces such as We-Work to make it easier for women to go back to work after having children and to lessen the resume gap that often happens after women have children.

“I think a lot of what coming up with a good business model is about integrating multiple perspectives you have to think about what will solve the social justice problem, gender equality, but what would make sense for the users the parents, and also what would be profitable for the business partner, you have to satisfy all of the different people involved and that’s a lot of what Swarthmore teaches us is about multiple perspectives,” said Anto.

Third was SwitchBoard founded by  Eric Wang ’18 and Michael Piazza ’17. SwitchBoard is a social media platform run through text message that connects subscribers to one another anonymously.

“Switchboard is a text message service that allows Swatties to vent and make new friends anonymously, like SwatDeck but from your phone. WE officially launched the night before our SwatTank competition and saw a ton of user engagement right off the bat. 1850 messages have been sent as of today! What’s next for us is to get more students using the service and implement features that help people pair up,” said Wang.

Last to present was New Dae Farms which consisted of Max Rogow ’20, and Haverford students Joseph Leroux ’18 and Rebecca Fisher ’18.  

Rebecca Fisher (Haverford) 2018, Joseph Leroux (Haverford) 2018, Max Rogow 2020 New Dae Farms’s business plan was to develop cricket farms at Swarthmore and Haverford to help contribute to the research for alternative protein sources.

“I think that we’ve had a lot of moments where Joey and Max and I have looked into each others eyes and been like are we going to be the cricket farmers like are we going to do that is that really what our education has lead up to? And the answer is yes. … I think a lot of this process has been figuring out what piece of the puzzle that we each want to play what plays to our strengths and what plays to how we can contribute to a team,” said Fisher “And Swarthmore and Haverford are great but I think a lot of how you get this far at elite liberal arts colleges is learning how to work really great by yourself and I think this process really, I can speak for myself but I think it’s true for everyone standing up here, was really taught me how to collaborate.”

In her opening remarks, Clark noted how this was the largest SwatTank yet with ten teams and around 30 students participating in the first round. Later she noted that although she was happy more people participated, the larger participation made the first round of competition harder to judge.

“This year, the hardest part was, I sit in as a judge in the first round. So we do a first round in February. So there were ten teams that went through [the] first round this year, and I know that the program is going well because we were fighting over who was going to go to the second round,” said Clark.

She noted that she wishes more teams could go onto the final round given all the hard work they have put into the project up until that point.

Clark enjoys working with SwatTank, and believes it helps students add to many aspects of their education including how to verbalize ideas in clear and persuasive ways, how to work effectively on a team, how to commit to a project, and how to fail fast and pivot. Her favorite part of the is the students’ growth in the passion and knowledge throughout the competition.

“My favorite part is really I see them on day one and then to see all the work that goes on all of the passion that sort of shines through and for them to pitch in that four minutes the competition. I get to know how far they’ve come, so that’s my favorite part. They’re polished, they answer questions with remarkable poise, they’re excited, they have a real clear idea of what they think and what this project really is,” said Clark.

This was the fifth SwatTank, but according to Clark, the programming has changed a little bit every year. Although some things like the alumni mentor to help fill knowledge gaps and the inclusion of a report in addition to the pitch have stayed the same, the format of the program has changed quite a bit. It started with an Entrepreneurship Club where students presented ideas at the Lax Conference on Entrepreneurship for a smaller cash prize. In the third year, SwatTank got their own conference, and in the fourth year, they added the Business Model Canvass.

“We also shifted the language to be more of an innovation competition as opposed to a business plan competition. Part of that had to do [with the fact that] we don’t require extensive financials that a business plan does. We’re really thinking about the innovation competition as an ideation competition, how good is this idea, did you test the idea, and is that an idea that will work, is it viable,” said Clark.

In the future, Clark helps to grow the program to include more teams, more alumni, more networking opportunities, and a larger cash prize to allow students to take their ideas to the next step.

College Athletics: Business or Experience

in Columns/Sports by

The National Collegiate Athletics Association’s existence, according to its website, is predicated on “integrating intercollegiate athletics into higher education so that the educational experience of the student-athlete is paramount.” Of course, this mission can manifest itself in many ways, the most common taking place at the Division I level, where students are offered scholarships to play sports while also being enrolled in academics. With the NCAA’s exponentially increasing popularity and profitability, it has become apparent that Division I schools are continually defying the NCAA’s mission statement.

Recently, collegiate sporting events like March Madness and the College Football Playoffs have garnered the attention of millions of Americans cheering on their alma mater or favorite athletes, and generated millions of dollars in revenue. According to an audited financial statement by USA Today, the NCAA earned around $989 million dollars in revenue in 2014. While the NCAA spent around $905 million of that revenue on expenses largely aimed at scholarships and expansionary projects, they still netted around $80.5 million in profit. For the individual schools, this profit margin is smaller but still notable. According to the Department of Education’s report from the 2011-2012 academic year, the University of Alabama, Ohio State University, and the University of Oregon made $45 million, $24 million, and $31 million respectively, largely in merchandise sales and television broadcasting rights.

With the opportunity to earn millions of dollars in revenue each year, it should not be surprising to learn that there have been a plethora of scandals relating to athletic programs trying to persuade top recruits to join their program, mostly through monetary incentives, an action that can sometimes be illegal under the NCAA’s strict recruitment rules. For example, Ed Martin, the University of Michigan’s Men’s Basketball team booster in the 90’s, was called before a federal grand jury for giving recruiting prospects such as Chris Webber over $600,000 to play basketball at Michigan. One of the most recent college athletic scandals, including Rick Pitino and the Louisville Men’s Basketball team, revolved around the same concept of enticing recruits, but not through monetary means. In 2015, Katrina Powell, accused Rick Pitino and the Louisville Men’s Basketball program of ordering thousands of dollars worth of sex workers for players and recruits. These allegations rightfully led to national outrage and the concurrent self-termination of the team’s opportunity to play in the postseason.

 

With these repeated violations of NCAA sanctioned rules, it doesn’t take much to realize that somewhere along the way, something went awry: college athletes and programs are too focused on profit margins and will do anything to try and get the top recruit to boost their rankings and sales. It isn’t outrageous to claim that although the NCAA hasn’t directly promoted any of this deviation, it has indirectly caused players and coaches to disregard the mission statement that it has set forth. Players are now more likely to attend a school for the incentives they are promised rather than the athletic and academic opportunities that the institution has to offer.

 

Because there has been so much controversy surrounding the “pay for play” mentality many athletic programs have secretly embodied, many are advocating a system in which college athletes are compensated for their athletic endeavors. Proponents of this system argue this case in two ways. The first is by saying that student athletes spend incredible amounts of time on something that is generating revenue for the university; therefore, logically, some form of compensation should follow. Second, they believe that the practice of persuading recruits through illegal methods will dwindle, or stop completely if recruits know that they will be paid either way. The idea of providing some form of monetary compensation for college athletes was only further placed in the spotlight after Shabaz Napier, point guard on the 2014 University of Connecticut Men’s Basketball championship team, was interviewed two days after the team’s win, claiming that he were nights that him and his teammates went to bed hungry.

 

“There’s hungry nights and I’m not able to eat, and I still got to play up to my capabilities … When you see your jersey getting sold, it may not have your last name on it , but when you see your jersey getting sold and things like that, you feel like you want something in return.”

 

While the NCAA has undoubtedly changed the lives of many young scholar-athletes around the world, it’s apparent that many of these same athletes feel as if there’s room for improvement.

College Ranks First In World For GMAT Scores

in Around Campus/News by

Last week, BusinessWeek published an article detailing its research on business school admissions and identified applicants from Swarthmore College as having the highest average score on the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), a standardized test mostly used for applying to business schools. The test has four components — Analytical Writing, Verbal, Quantitative and Integrated Reasoning. The average score of applicants from Swarthmore was 742.5; the maximum a test-taker can score is 800.

This news surprised many at the school since the college does not offer a major in business. As the BusinessWeek article acknowledged, however, economics is one of the most popular majors on campus.

Professor of Economics, Garret Christensen, voiced his surprise. “I found it really surprising because when I think of a standardized test I don’t associate it with the kind of education a liberal arts college gives you,” he said.

Nancy Burkett, Director of Career Services, was thrilled with the news but admitted that Career Services does not play a big role in helping students with business school applications and GMAT preparation. “Students usually apply to business school after working for a couple of years after graduation, so they don’t take the test or start preparing for it while at Swarthmore”, she said. She added that a student has never approached Career Services for help with preparing for the test.

Post-Graduate Statistics from 2004 through 2012 shows that most Swarthmore graduates choose to go into employment for profit. The report on the website states, “The majority of graduating seniors enter business careers, including consulting, investment banking, financial services, marketing and management.” The report also notes that “45% of our graduating seniors secure employment in the for-profit world.” Such jobs can be viewed as a step towards being admitted to a business school.

Constance Mietkowski ‘16, who plans to attend business school in the future, is heartened by Swatties’ success on the GMAT. She said, “It’s great that we do so well. I think it has something to do with how Swarthmore teaches us to deal with academic pressure and stress.”

Swarthmore’s academic rigor is a popular explanation for this particular accolade. Diane Anderson, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at Swarthmore, voiced an opinion similar to Mietkowski’s in the BusinessWeek article. She said, “Swarthmore is a very rigorous school and we have amazing students.”

Provost Stephenson too expressed surprise at the results of the BusinessWeek study but did not think that the graduates’ test-taking abilities were honed through the college’s demanding academic work.In an e-mail, he said, “I believe that our curriculum should prepare students for whatever challenges they might face, including a rigorous business school curriculum, but I did not necessarily expect to see our alumni necessarily performing well on standardized testing. Of course, many of our students did well on college entrance exams like the SAT and the ACT, so perhaps this ability to perform on such tests predates coming to Swarthmore. So, we may be a somewhat pre-selected population in terms of aptitude for these tests.”

Swarthmore ranked higher than the Indian Institute of Technology and Harvard College for this distinction.

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