The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated underlying trends in business and society. It seems like everyone is thinking about the future and asking the same question, “What’s next?”
The Center for Principled Leadership and Business Strategy is part of the Haworth College of Business’ vision for what is next. The center provides immersive learning experiences at the undergraduate and graduate levels that blur the lines between education and professional business experience, connecting WMU with the West Michigan business community. Serving as co-directors of the center are associate professors of management, Drs. Doug Lepisto and Derrick McIver, whose passion is creating competitive advantages for students, companies and WMU that focus on purpose and profit.
“The center and the leadership and business strategy program strive to provide the best experiential learning for business students in the country,” says McIver. “Traditional notions of shareholder-only business models are becoming obsolete. And traditional notions of higher education are becoming obsolete. We aspire to set a new standard for business education.”
The center's activities include:
- Large-scale consulting projects where students, alongside faculty, solve problems for senior leadership teams
- Personal executive coaching for students
- A course on small business acquisition
- Access to a capital investment fund to acquire and operate West Michigan companies
- Events and a podcast about leading profitable businesses that make contributions to stakeholders and society
- Research on topics such as leadership, strategy, meaningful work and leading with purpose
Launched in 2019 with a $6.5 million investment from the Haworth family, Greenleaf Trust Chairman William D. Johnston, the Menard family and the Charles Koch Foundation, the center teaches students that purpose and profit can be powerfully linked through the actions and strategies of leaders.
“A business’ significant economic impact is transformational when paired with wide, positive community impact,” says Lepisto. “That is why the center fills a critical need—it teaches this concept.”
Projects that perform
The linchpin of the center is “learning by doing.” The innovative consulting projects designed for leadership and business strategy students highlight how the center achieves big wins for students and the community.
“The leadership and business strategy courses are unlike any others I’ve taken in college,” says senior Logan Mulholland. “Previously, I would have never considered myself a strong leader, but by working on real problems for real businesses, I was faced with team conflict, ambiguity and fast-paced changes. I have not only learned how to effectively lead a team in-person and online but also what my leadership style is. I am now more confident in myself as a student, leader and future business professional.”
Helping to build that confidence are executives like Kevin Carmody, a WMU alumnus and senior partner at McKinsey & Company who has been coaching students in the program.
“It has been a terrific experience to mentor these talented students. What impresses me is their intellectual curiosity, personal drive and commitment to helping companies tackle some of their most complex problems. This program connects students with senior executives to help them grow and thrive in a rapidly changing world.”
Students created a purpose-driven wine brand in partnership with Tremonte Vineyard in Chile, analyzing whether a philanthropic enterprise model could apply to the wine category. To date, the wine, which is offered in stores such as Meijer, Harding’s and Trader Joe’s, has raised more than $25,000 for student scholarships and is operated by a student team.
Students worked with Revolution Farms to aid the community-focused indoor farming company in determining market size, offerings and opportunities for expansion. Traveling throughout the Midwest, students collected customer data and made critical recommendations for the organization’s future.
The center established THE JUNGLE podcast, seeing a need for thought leadership as organizations approached the COVID-19 crisis. The guests include Fortune 500 executives, government officials and entrepreneurs.