December 15, 2022

By Amanda O’Rourke

Capped by a culminating course, the four-year path of a Susquehanna business school student is paved with preparation, mentorships, international opportunities and career support — grounded in a liberal arts foundation.

International Accreditation + Future-proof Skills

As a private national liberal arts college, Susquehanna University prepares students with intellectual and practical competence — such as effective communication, critical thinking and problem-solving skills — that helps them adapt throughout their lives to the highly competitive and ever-changing workplace. Additionally, it is among the top 5% of business schools worldwide accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

“What makes us different is we are a top business school in a liberal arts environment. We are also the only business school in the world that guarantees students an internship in a foreign country,” says Matthew Rousu, dean of the Sigmund Weis School of Business. “The education and perspectives students get from studying at Susquehanna and studying and interning abroad give them a perspective and training almost no other college students in the world receive.”

There are certain milestones that students in the Sigmund Weis School of Business experience — a pathway that takes them from rookie first-year students to proficient seniors who may very well secure their first job before Commencement Day.

First-year Students Actively Learn

Global Business Perspectives, the class taken by all first-year students in the Sigmund Weis School of Business, is a rite of passage. In their first semester of college, the course introduces them to team-based learning, case study research and live presentations.

“It sets our students up for success for the rest of their time at SU. It’s the reason they get internships at earlier stages,” says Theresa Finley, assistant professor of economics and instructor of GBP. “Our students are such leaders when it comes to working in teams and giving presentations because they are exposed to it from the beginning.”

The active-learning course requires students to do in-depth market research on a real company and culminates with a team presentation to invited business executives, many of whom are Susquehanna alumni. Over the years, students have taken deep dives into companies such as Bed Bath and Beyond, Burberry, Chipotle, Lowes and Under Armour, among others.

Their research requires them to delve into all aspects of a company, from its financial performance to the health of the industry as a whole and growth opportunities within it — all with the close mentorship of upper-level student coaches who have already completed GBP.

“Global Business Perspectives appeals to two different kinds of students: students who know they want to go into business and others who are interested in business but aren’t yet committed,” says Finley. “Students in GBP are going to hear about all of the different majors we have to offer in the business school and will also get a lot of hands-on experience in each of them.”

Greta Polsky ’22 coached a team that was studying Post cereal. Her team proposed that Post partner with Turkey Hill to develop a product called Cocoa Pebbles ice cream: Turkey Hill chocolate ice cream with Cocoa Pebbles cereal rolled into it. The team even created their own version of the frozen treat for the judges to sample on the team’s presentation day.

“In 2021, Post brought out their own ice cream line featuring two flavors: Cocoa Pebbles and Fruity Pebbles,” Polsky says. “It was so cool to see a product my team dreamed up now available in stores!”

Having thoroughly enjoyed her experience as a student in the course, Polsky says graduating to a coaching role was a natural progression for her.

“The main thing that I gained from the coaching experience was overall project management skills. Since I was the one who had been in their shoes, I had to be there to guide them not only to yield the best result possible, but also to teach them valuable lessons of professionalism and tenacity throughout a project that took months of preparation,” Polsky said. “I still think that GBP was one of the most valuable classes I took while at SU, and I definitely think that being a coach helped me see all of the ways that it helps shape students into young professionals.”

“GBP helped give me an overview of the different aspects of the business world, and during my time in college it definitely reflected the necessity for a strong work ethic from the start,” she adds.

Because the course fulfills the first-year seminar requirement, GBP covers business fundamentals, functional areas of business and business careers, and opportunities provided by the Sigmund Weis School of Business and the broader university — from Global Opportunities to the Career Development Center.

Sophomores Pair with Invaluable Alumni Mentors

For the first time in 2022–23, all sophomores in the Sigmund Weis School of Business receive two to three alumni mentors to support them as they navigate their second year of college.

“Our first-year students experience Global Business Perspectives, which offers a lot of support and guidance from upper-level student coaches, and our third-year students are often studying abroad and interning, so we identified this need for our second-year students,” says Kristie Anderson ’99, programs coordinator. “We thought this would be a great way to give them additional support and guidance.”

Second-year students receive multiple mentors who expose them to varying fields and share their real-world and educational experiences with the goal for students to build meaningful and lasting relationships and networks with experienced professionals. Students are encouraged to connect with their mentors about career topics such as résumé and cover letter review, job search process, interviewing and networking.

Michelle Rickenbaugh ’05, now a senior manager of corporate compliance and transformation at KPMG, volunteered to participate in the program as a way to give back to the business school. She credits Jerry Habegger, professor emeritus of accounting, with taking the time to talk her through career options and personal goals when she was a student at Susquehanna.

“Looking back, I can see so much growth in myself during my college experience and I really appreciate the time and energy that people put into my future career,” she says. “I’m very happy to pay it forward and work to support the next SWSB generation.”

As a mentor, Rickenbaugh hopes students use her as a sounding board for the questions and concerns on their minds. “I think it’s important to get to know each other so that the student is comfortable asking questions and sharing their thoughts,” she adds.

Confident Global Citizens by Year 3

Students who choose to spend a semester abroad usually do so in their junior year — and London is a popular choice. Begun by the business school in fall 1995, Susquehanna’s Global Opportunities program in London, partnered with Anglo Educational Services, is also one of the university’s longest running study-abroad programs.

Students spend a semester living and studying in the heart of London with fellow students from the Sigmund Weis School of Business. Classes are augmented by visits to businesses with cultural activities, as well as two international field trips to other European countries.

During their semester abroad, students are supported in-country by a business faculty member who serves as the program director to aid them in adjusting to their new environment of living, studying and doing an internship abroad, says Katarina Keller, associate professor of economics. Students earn SU credit for their courses and the grades they earn in London contribute to their SU grade point average.

In 2017, the program was redesigned to accommodate a new requirement — a 10-week internship with a British company. The business school has long had students interning in various parts of the world, but the London Program’s requirement bolsters the international exposure the school provides its students at a time when global experiences are increasingly important.

“The London program provides students with tremendous experiences and a major talking point when they’re meeting with prospective employers,” says Jerry Habegger, professor emeritus of accounting. “It is a global world. Students must understand other cultures, other environments, and most London businesses are global. These internships set our students up for professional opportunities and success.”

Over the course of their semester abroad, students grow from timid, often first-time travelers to confident global citizens, Keller remarks.

“When students initially arrive, they do not know London and how to get around; however, soon they are excited and confident to experience what it is like to live in a foreign city and to make it their home,” Keller says. “They gain experience in their working relationships at their internships and are proud of their accomplishments. They soon feel confident that they can handle the academic requirements of a foreign country.”

London is just one of the study-abroad programs available to students. Read more about the international internship opportunities guaranteed to business school students — and their recent experiences — on page 12.

Capping Off Senior Year with Policy and Strategy

Business Policy and Strategy is the capstone course that senior business majors take to graduate. The course integrates much of the knowledge they gain from earlier courses and uses a case method approach to solve problems facing top management.

One of the professors currently teaching the course is Basil Holobetz, who worked for more than 20 years as a global business professional before joining the faculty at Susquehanna.

“This course gives me the opportunity to speak a lot about what I did in my career before Susquehanna,” Holobetz says. “What we’re doing is taking all the disciplines in the business school and bringing them all into the same class.”

During the spring 2022 semester, students formed teams, each choosing a company within a common industry. Similar to what they did during GBP in their first year, the students conduct research into the industry, the company and the company’s competitors using Porter’s five forces analysis, which examines:

  • The threat of new industry entrants.
  • The threat of substitutes.
  • Bargaining power of customers.
  • Bargaining power of suppliers.
  • Competitive rivalry.

“The course is all about trying to figure out the competitive advantage: who has the competitive advantage and why?” Holobetz says. “By the end of the class, the students have figured it out. They know why Apple is so successful, why Tesla is so powerful, and it’s really insightful.”

The Sigmund Weis School of Business rigorously prepares students for their postgraduate journey — beginning with their first semester through their capstone. Over the last three years, 98% of business students are employed or in graduate school within six months of graduation.

Every course, project, presentation or opportunity is designed to make the business school’s graduates as competitive as possible in a world that has become more demanding of intercultural and interpersonal competencies.

“The world is increasingly global, and to succeed, individuals need to work with people from different backgrounds and to be able to tackle problems from different angles,” Rousu says. “The combination of a top business education in a liberal arts environment with unmatched international opportunities gives our graduates a training they won’t find anywhere else.”