World of Business Students Gain Valuable ExperienceWorld of Business Students Gain Valuable Experience
For 177 freshmen at the School of Business, the door to the business world opens into a coffeehouse.

For 177 freshmen at the School of Business, the door to the business world opens into a coffeehouse.

In their required first-semester course, the freshmen are grouped into teams of five and compete as coffeehouse managers in a computer simulation game, BizCafe.

“They have to manage inventory and hire staff. Their grade is based on the profitability of their coffeehouse vs. others in their section, not against performance from all sections,” said Don Lifton, an associate professor of management and one of two instructors in the World of Business course.

Lifton, on the faculty for 30 years, teaches four sections of World of Business, putting him in front of about 120 of this year’s freshmen. He created the course “many years ago.”

Heather Lane, a lecturer in management, teaches the other two sections. It’s her first year doing so. Lane, president of the Purity Ice Cream Company coffeehouse in Ithaca, received her MBA from the School in 2010.

“My goal is to turn them on right off the start, using music, video, current events,” said Lane.

“I’m a little atypical in that many professors prefer to teach upper-class courses,” said Lifton. “I think we should put forth our best effort down to the first-year students.”

BizCafe accounts for 10 percent of each student’s grade. It’s the equivalent of a term paper, Lifton said.

Each team will receive $25,000 from a local entrepreneur to start a coffee shop near a university in a good downtown location. According to the BizCafe website, they hire servers, decide on marketing plans and purchase materials and equipment to make their shop a success. Challenges include keeping customers and employees happy, ordering the right amount of coffee and cups to meet demand, and attracting customers. Students learn different accounting methods and must manage their cash flow and payroll accordingly.

(To learn more, visit

Students spent the first third of the semester learning about the game before beginning competition. BizCafe gives participants lessons in teamwork and collaboration, which Lane says they should readily grasp “especially if they have been on sports or work teams. It really depends on their personality types, too.”

BizCafe results can provide resume opportunities as well, said Lifton: “They can include that their BizCafe team finished first.”

The School offers an Introduction to Business course to anyone who’s not a declared business major. World of Business is open to first-year business majors and exploratory majors. The college catalog says the course “surveys the functional areas of business – finance, accounting, human resources, production marketing and international business – and reviews the socioeconomic, political, legal and sustainability factors that influence business decisions in a global economy.

“I say World of Business is Introduction to Business on steroids,” Lifton said.

The course also presents the challenges freshmen face as similar to the demands on management in business settings – addressing time management, goal setting, stress management, career development, and other topics related to student and career success.

The School’s community spirit motivates Lifton as he introduces first-year students to business concepts – and each other.
“I eschew use of ‘freshman’ for gender-bias reasons and use ‘first-year’ instead,” he said.
By the time students go home for Fall Break Oct. 20, “I’ll have every first name,” Lifton promised. “I want them to go home and tell Mom and Dad that ‘My professor knows my name.’’’

He’s developed several techniques to learn 120 first names, among them the Scavenger Hunt. Along with attendance in three required Student Leadership Institute sessions, the Scavenger Hunt accounts for 5 percent of the course grade in his sections.

On the first day of class, Lifton passes out a self-disclosure sheet, asking each student to list three of their favorites, information he admits he could learn from their Facebook pages. He then creates a spreadsheet for each section, with 30 numbers, one for each student and their three favorites.

By Fall Break, each student has to complete a spreadsheet, initialing their own number and writing in the names of every other student in the section as they learn them.

“It’s a way for students to make friends, learn about each other, and on a lily-white campus, for students to learn about diversity of interests and backgrounds,” Lifton said.

Lane employs several methods to stimulate class discussions, among them bringing snacks to share.
“I really hate PowerPoints all class long,” she said. “I usually throw in a video, or try to show them something new to get them excited.”

To help discuss GDP and economics, she showed the four-minute video of Swedish professor Hans Rosling discussing 200 years that changed the world. (Go to

She will use “a short video clip or a new website and show how it works with the chapter (in the textbook “Understanding Business”) or a song by Eminem or Kanye West to wake them up and get the juices flowing at 9 a.m. I do all sorts of things to get the students to feel comfortable and eager to learn.”
At semester’s end, Lane wants students to be thinking about more than grades and salaries.

“I want them to be more socially minded as they go out into business one day,” she said. “My goal is to have the students think not only about the almighty dollar and making the big bucks but how it affects our Earth and the people around them. Decisions are not made in isolation.”

To Lifton, it’s all about ethical decision making, which is included in the School’s mission statement.
“I tell the students, ‘You’re arcing to a destiny of leadership. What you’re doing here is a lot bigger, a lot nobler than yourself – preparing for a career in leadership.’”

For the faculty, from first semester to graduation, Lifton said, “We’re preparing students for the responsibilities, obligations, expectations, joys and challenges of ethical leadership.”

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