Out of the Lab: Better Together

The new slogan for the James M. Hull College of Business is Better Together, and one of the standout examples of this inclusive idea is the research done by a team of three undergraduate business students working under the direction of Dr. Simon Medcalfe, associate professor of finance and economics. As part of a Center for Undergraduate Research and Scholarship Summer Scholars Program, they helped a local nonprofit tailor its product line to maximize returns and ultimately published their research in a preeminent journal.

The problem the students were presented with is a fairly common one in business: The Augusta Training Shop, a nonprofit that employs adults with mental and physical disabilities, built a fundraising program around decorative snowflakes made from the cane they were already using for furniture repair, but they didn’t know how much the snowflakes cost to produce. Without knowing that, executive director Audrey Murell didn’t know the best price to charge or whether it made sense to offer discounts to wholesalers.

The students recommended they increase the prices of a couple of the more popular smaller snowflakes, and the Training Shop followed their advice.

“I think a project like this shows just how much better we are together,” Medcalfe says. “Faculty, students and local businesses can come together and solve a problem where otherwise, the students would have been sitting in class and the business would have been struggling.”

Through the life cycle of the project, the students presented their findings to the Training Shop’s board, presented their research at a conference in Orlando and eventually published their research in the Case Research Journal, one of the top 10 journals in management education. Medcalfe now uses the project in his microeconomics classes.

“I like the fact that it’s not just research for research’s sake,” he says. “It’s helping a business out, and it’s synergistic with my teaching and what we’re trying to do here at the business college.”

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