Poole Students Excel in First-Time Practicum Collaboration with Leeds University Business School
By Jess Clarke
Poole student Jane Burkhart enjoyed memorable activities on her study-abroad experience in Leeds, England: attending events for Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee, hearing Prince William talk on climate change and seeing Alicia Keyes perform.
But the highlight of the trip last spring? She gained a lot of confidence in her academic abilities.
The presentation she and her team made at the end of their consulting practicum with a startup boosted her confidence as a business administration student. The client project was intensive — students had to finish it in three weeks, half the time they would have had in a semester-long practicum.
When I finished the presentation, I was really proud of myself. Professor Chris Littel told me, ‘You should put this on a resume. This is really amazing work.’ It made me feel like I’d underestimated myself before the trip.
“When I finished the presentation, I was really proud of myself. Professor Chris Littel told me, ‘You should put this on a resume. This is really amazing work.’ It made me feel like I’d underestimated myself before the trip,” says Burkhart, a junior.
The practicum was one of three courses in entrepreneurship and international business that 16 students took in England in the first-time collaboration between Poole and Leeds University Business School at the University of Leeds.
The consulting project is the highlight of the study experience.
Littel gave students a template to build an action plan, create an activity list, manage the client’s expectations and do other tasks. “They had to structure, build and execute a solution to a real-world problem with a real-world company in England” the Poole professor says.
In the process, students strengthened a range of skills: problem-solving, making presentations, researching, managing a contract and teamwork. Each student team had face-to-face meetings with the client before presenting the final report.
Students built off their experience in Poole’s entrepreneurship program’s clinic in Raleigh, where they work with business owners, and benefitted from access to the University of Leeds’ entrepreneurial ecosystem and faculty..
In Leeds, Burkhart’s team worked with the head of Crysp, a B2B software and enterprise resource planning platform that manages business and school property estates, compliance and risk. Students analyzed the feasibility of Crysp entering the U.S. market. That would leverage the North Carolina presence of one of the company’s investors, Twinkl, based in Sheffield, England.
After research that included corresponding with professionals in U.S. public secondary education, students recommended Crysp explore marketing its product in the U.S. in the next 18 months.
“We were absolutely delighted with the impact the students from NC State made at Crysp. As our company grows, we see the North American market as key for us in the future,” company co-founder Pete Mills says. “The opportunity to work with students from NC State in conjunction with the University of Leeds was an opportunity too good to miss as we plot to piggyback on this…Clearly each and every one of (the students) were enthusiastic about our mission and product and, crucially, about how we could break into the U.S. market.”
The study-abroad experience could lead to more collaboration between Poole and Leeds University Business School.
For Poole business administration major Ben Stevens, who also worked with Crysp, the Leeds trip introduced him to collaborating with people from different cultures. “Being in another country, you’re out of your comfort zone a little bit. You have to talk to people you don’t normally talk to,” the sophomore says. “Having to go through that kind of experience was really helpful.”
He also enjoyed talking with a panel of entrepreneurs, visiting a co-working space for startups and, on weekends, visiting other European countries.
Stevens and other Poole students left Leeds with valuable insights and skills to begin their careers.
“Students got an exceptional experience understanding startup businesses in the region. They were exposed to different cultures, languages and events that broadened their horizons. Most of all, they got a really great experience working with a real startup in the U.K. that will help them do similar things in the U.S.,” Littel says.
Dr Richard Tunstall, host and academic director of enterprise at Leeds University Business School said “The students we hosted made a big impact on campus. It was inspiring to see them tackle a real business problem in another country which most had never visited before. Their results were impressive and made a tangible impact on LUBS Enterprise Ambassador businesses.
Burkhart isn’t sure what kind of work she’ll pursue after she graduates. But no matter what it is, after talking with motivated, innovative entrepreneurs in Leeds she has more confidence she can make an impact and succeed.
“I realized if there’s something I want to do, I shouldn’t be inhibited by the fear that it might not work out,” she says. “If you’re passionate about it, you just have to chase that dream.”