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Dr. Steve Cobb of the Economics Department comments on the Recession"s impact on business studies


Insight on Education
Recent recession plays role in business courses
by Chris Hughes
Date: Thursday, October 28, 2010, 10:48am EDT

The recent economic crisis has influenced a shift on the emphasis placed on certain business lessons taught in local universities.

But business and marketing professors say that has not led to a sudden, drastic overhaul in teaching methods.
“It would not be about how we teach but it would be more about what we teach,” saidSteve Cobb, associate professor of economics at Xavier University. “I can see the recession affected some content in some courses, but I don’t think it should affect how we deliver the material or develop expectations on what the students are doing.”

In his advanced macroeconomics course, Cobb said the recent economic downturn has influenced increased discussions on particular themes, such as the reasons behind the occurrence of business cycles.

But change has been more dramatic elsewhere.

University of Cincinnati visiting professor Jane Sojka, for example, now stresses what students need to do outside her professional selling course to be ready for the fierce competition they will encounter in the job market.  “We are working on elevator speeches right now where students have 30 seconds to get a person to remember your name, how to get hold of you and what you should be known for,” she said. “I’m not sure I would have practiced that so much before the recession. I would have talked about how it’s important, but now I want my students to be able to recite verbatim: This is it, this is who I am, glad to meet you and leave a memorable impression.”

Sojka also often assumes the persona of a nasty customer so students can practice proper interaction in a simulated environment to become better prepared to react appropriately during a similar real-world situation.
“I want my students to be employed, law-abiding, tax-paying citizens when they graduate,” said Sojka. “They have to know the theory, and that is the academic side of it. But I want that theory to translate into actual hands-on activities so my students perform well in a job interview situation and on the job.”

Drew Boyd, executive director of UC’s master of science in marketing program and an assistant professor of marketing and innovation, said he still favors models that have worked well in practice.  “The classic methods do not go out of style because of the economy,” he said. “You still use the classic fundamental frameworks and tools.”  But that does not mean the status quo remains in his classroom.  The recession has altered what Boyd teaches regarding overall marketing strategy, segmentation and positioning, as well as pricing and communication.  “Given that a recession by definition means that business is soft, the marketing strategy has to be more clever,” Boyd said.

He also is more focused on teaching students to think about fresh market opportunities outside a company’s core business and how those opportunities can become new sources of growth during a recession.
Boyd particularly stresses changes in terms of how companies position themselves.  “When we teach segmentation, we teach marketers to think in terms of attitudinal segmentation – attitudinal and aspirational,” said Boyd.  “What happens during a recession is those attitudes and aspirations change so you have to teach marketers to be more nimble,” he said.  He also tells his students how important it is to successfully, albeit carefully, communicate value to consumers who want to save money.  “You want people to feel smart for making frugal decisions,” Boyd said.  “So when I teach it, I have to get marketers to think about the good times versus the bad times, and how those two paradigms create different strategies and different tactics that we put into the marketplace.”