Preparation for Marketplace Ministry

Preparation for Marketplace Ministry

Associate Professor of Finance Dr. Bill Ragle explains to students the various tools of the University's Keybank trading room. Photo credit: Scott L. Huck

by Sharyn Kopf—Cedarville, Ohio

September 4, 2008

It’s not easy to maneuver your way up the corporate ladder in today’s business world. It takes hard work, strong skills, and a passion to succeed. These are all key components to obtaining a degree from the Department of Business Administration at Cedarville University — with one very important addition.

“Our distinctive is that we biblically integrate our coursework with practical Bible applications so that our graduates can be professionally discerning,” says John LeBlanc, associate professor of management and department chair. He adds, “We do this in every class.”

LeBlanc can recite several examples of this, including the department’s involvement with Hope International — an organization that operates micro-financing in six countries, with a 99 percent payback. Hope provides $50 loans to individuals in third-world nations, enough money for them to own their own business, and Cedarville students help train and support the participants. The students teach young Ukrainians how to start and run a business through a program called Emerging Entrepreneurs that was developed by Cedarville’s chapter of Students In Free Enterprise. This year 10 students trained 25 to 30 Ukrainians in this program through the on-site missions trip. For a country coming out of communism, this is invaluable to building their future.

“Students come back with a whole new concept of being thankful and giving — having a servant’s heart,” LeBlanc says. “It’s an eye-opening experience for them.” One such experience included attending a baptism where they saw river water that had turned green from pollution.

Another distinctive places Cedarville as the only school in the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities — and one of only 12 undergrad schools in the United States — that has an Integrated Business Core (IBC) program. In this one-of-a-kind opportunity, students get hands-on practical experience in starting and running a company. The program combines marketing, finance, and management in a block, with a three-hour practicum and regular company meetings. This fall will be its largest class yet, with 57 students involved. They choose a product, develop a marketing and business plan, and then present their plan to an outside financial planning committee consisting of a banker/loan officer, the Greene County director of development, and an entrepreneur. These three must approve the company’s plan before granting the loan to get started.

Accounting major Ryan Dunlap ’06, who served as CEO of his IBC company, says, “It stretches you to your limits, both academically and spiritually. It forces you to find out who you really are and where God might be calling you in the future.”

With spiritual goals in mind, students perform 10 hours of community service, donating the proceeds to a nonprofit organization of their choice. Over the past five years, they have given around $17,000 to various organizations in the Miami Valley.

Cedarville also participates in SIFE — the Students in Free Enterprise program. Since its inception in 1997, Cedarville’s nationally recognized SIFE chapter has provided educational opportunities through hands-on projects that teach the principles of entrepreneurship, market economics, personal finance, and business ethics.

For instance, in 2003 SIFE took their copyrighted product Ready, Sell, Dough into Greene County elementary schools and used it to teach students about free enterprise — specifically how to start and run a business on an elementary level.

“We have more schools wanting us to do that than we have the time and resources to accommodate them,” LeBlanc says. “Schools that have taken advantage of this program have increased their Ohio proficiency scores by 45 percent!”

Cedarville business students have also found other ways to help local companies. The advanced operation class has twice participated in a project at Navistar in Springfield, Ohio — and has shown the company how to save $3 million. “It’s free consulting,” says LeBlanc. “So, yes, they want us to come back.”

Students in a marketing class also recently provided market research and a layout plan for the new Beans-n-Cream — a Cedarville, Ohio, coffee shop.

Having the best in facilities continues to be a priority for the department. Take, for example, the fact that Cedarville is one of the few schools in America with a trading room that uses student-managed funds. Not a simulated program, the students invest and monitor real money. It provides a realistic environment for online portfolio analysis using Bloomberg software. Students are able to keep abreast of current market developments through the stock ticker running at the head of the room.

A new addition for students this year involves more interaction — both between student and teacher and student and student. The latter can best be seen in Business Buddies, a program that has 18 upperclassmen each taking four to five freshmen under their wing, as it were, and mentoring them through the school year.

With its hands-on opportunities and biblical integration, Cedarville was the best choice for finance major Alex Durbin ’09. “From organizing student companies in IBC to managing real money in the Student Managed Investment Fund and everything in between,” he says, “Cedarville gives students plenty of opportunities to gain unique experiences and differentiate themselves from students at other universities.”

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