A biology major with a kinesiology minor at Albion College, Darcy Muns, '20, looked for a unique project that would test her leadership mettle and provide an opportunity to work with people from another culture.
And in the liberal arts tradition, she found that project in an international entrepreneurial exchange blending students mostly from Albion's Carl A. Gerstacker Institute for Business and Management with students from the L'Ecole Superieure de Vente (SDV), a business school located near Paris.
Muns, a Lake Orion, Mich., product, was an all-Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association second team pick while scoring 31 goals for the women's lacrosse team in the spring. She was joined by fellow Britons Adam Jarvis, '19, a member of the MIAA Tournament champion men's lacrosse team, Laura Newbury, '18, and Michael Martin, '20, as well as four students from SDV. Their objective was to formulate the business plan for Unismart, a company that innovates technology to improve the safety features of personal protective equipment for workers in the electrical field.
"It was important to me to have international experience and I was spurred on to expand my curriculum and get out of my comfort zone," Muns said. "A lot of the class was built on peer communication, so being a biology major rather than a business major was never an issue. My teammates were very helpful with answering questions, as we all added something important to the group. Things may have been lost in translation (between the Albion and SDV students) once or twice, but we all used our individual skills to reach our goals. The class was an awesome opportunity I feel privileged to have experienced, and I know I will draw on this for years to come."
The most important stretch of the entrepreneurial exchange occurs in April when the students present their business plan as part of Albion's Elkin R. Isaac Student Research Symposium. That happens to coincide with one of the important stretches of the lacrosse season when the Britons are taking the field against MIAA rivals.
On the day of the presentation, in fact, the men's team was playing the second of back-to-back MIAA contests because weather had forced the postponement of the game at Alma College until April 19.
"I sit down on Sunday night to plan the upcoming week between lacrosse, school and study and social," said Jarvis, who has moved on to a summer internship with Enterprise. "(Research for the class included) driving to Lansing to meet line workers and a trip to Grand Rapids to meet with a patent attorney where spent hours taking pages of notes about a provisional application."
In the end, Jarvis said the hours invested in understanding business cycles and marketing led to a plan that could become reality.
"There were times (the Albion and SDV students) didn't agree, but we solved conflicts creatively and it was cool to form a team," Jarvis said. "We all worked as a team to go as far as we could. This business plan is the real deal."
The plan was awarded first prize in the Paris region Chamber of Commerce entrepreneurial school competition in the advanced category for master's students.
"We were thrilled to hear the news about UniSmart being a winning team," economics and management professor Vicki Baker said. "The Paris Area Chamber of Commerce is the largest in the country, and serves as the Board of Trustees for many public universities, making this a very competitive award. Each year we work hard to increase the rigor, broaden our partnerships with key faculty and alumni, and work on critical skill development of our participating students to ensure a high quality product at the end of the year.
"With that in mind, we are introducing alumni executive mentors for the first time this year to offer support throughout the year-long course," Baker added. "For this pilot program, our executive mentors will be Brook Critchfield, Dean Massab, Jeff Weedman, and Jeff Youle. We are thrilled to have their support and expertise as entrepreneurs and investors."
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