Grads Go to Business School

“Money makes the world go round” has taken on new meaning for our grad students combining their geographic studies with UCSB’s Graduate Program in Management Practice (GPMP). The GPMP is a cutting-edge certificate program that provides advanced degree students “with a sound and essential introduction to the fundamentals of business management in preparation for successful careers using their graduate training beyond the University” ).

Geography has two grad students in the GPMP program this year, Sean Benison and Julie Dillemuth. Julie likens the program to “a mini-MBA, giving students business skills that extend the value of their PhD, whether they are bound for careers in industry or academia.” Sean adds, “Whether you plan to work in academia, non-profits, or business, you will find that the program offers invaluable insights for managing an organization.”

This year, one of the core courses requires that students design, manufacture, and sell a product — all in the space of one week. The product must involve a common recyclable material, and the team with the most profit (after materials & labor cost) gets taken to dinner by Professor Gary Hansen (Associate Dean, Technology Management Programs, College of Engineering).

So what did these entrepreneurs come up with? Julie’s team promoted “sit-upons,” 12 x 18″ waterproof mats that fold flat to 9 x 12″ to fit in a backpack, designed for sitting on wet or dirty benches or grass, with recycled office paper inside for insulation and support. They sold for $3, with the profits going to the campus organization WiSE, Women in Science and Engineering. Sean’s team sold candleholders made from soda and beer cans (they could alternately be used as ashtrays, coin dishes, “mini bird baths,” or whatever else you can dream up) that ran $1 each, with proceeds going to The Nature Conservancy.

And the winner is……not one of the geographers! While Julie’s group made $43 and Sean’s group made $102, neither was anywhere close to the winner. The winning team was a group selling earrings made from bottle caps, which raised over $300 for breast cancer research. Other teams’ products included pink pendants made from soda can tabs, a coupon (made from recycled paper) for discounts in Isla Vista, and blue & gold pom-poms for UCSB sports events made from used crepe-paper. But learning was more important than winning at the end of the day. Rumor has it that the “winners” got most of their income by peddling their wares to sororities in Isla Vista. Location is everything when it comes to selling a product, and part of the lesson learned was definitely “spatial.”

Despite not taking first place, our geographic entrepreneurs enjoyed the contest. “It was great fun” says Sean. “It drives home just how much you can accomplish in a single week.”

(Editor’s note: Yep, both Julie and Sean conned me into buying their products. While Julie’s creation was “interesting,” my favorite was Sean’s beer can creations—at last, a use for Bud and Miller Light! And thanks to both Julie and Sean for allowing me to con them into writing this article!)

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