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Capstone Course Gives Students First Hand Look at Strategic Management

Sometimes, all of the book learning in the world doesn't click until a student has seen and experienced something firsthand. Then it's like a lightbulb goes off and understanding suddenly occurs. Dr. Eugene Steadman, professor and department chair of the business administration program for the Adult Professional Program, provides MBA students with this firsthand experience in the strategic management course. Students recently visited Dominion Packaging, Inc. and the Virginia Housing Development Authority (VHDA), which are both located in Richmond.

Dominion Packaging supplies product packaging for companies like McDonald's (large French fry cartons) and Philip Morris (cigarette cartons) and employs more than 100 people. Many of the employees who run the machines are former prison inmates who had trouble finding a job. The president and CEO of the company, Brett Hawkins, has found that his company, and the employees, have benefited greatly from giving former prisoners a "second chance." The class saw firsthand how well this human resource strategy was working. They also concluded at the end of their visit that the basic success of the company is due to its low cost strategy and phenomenal customer service.

On their visit to the VHDA, students met with executive director and former treasurer of the Commonwealth Susan Dewey. They also had an opportunity to interact with her key directors for general auditor, finance and administration and policy, planning and communications.

The visit demonstrated how an organization such as the VHDA can float its own municipal bonds and use those proceeds to provide mortgage money (at a higher rate to make a slight profit) to low income families to buy a home. The class unanimously agreed that the way the VHDA has managed its business in the past is the key to its success today. Throughout the years the VHDA has stuck to very conservative loan principles, and today its reserves, enabled by those principles, are carrying them through the current economic situation.

It's firsthand experiences like these and many others that prepare our students for their futures.

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