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Georgia Southern students go ‘bananas’ for local baseball team, create new merchandise concepts

Katie Hillery, left, Jesse Cole, owner of the Savannah Bananas, Rachel Hart, Lizzy Mackerty from Savannah Bananas, Jessica Longoria and Curtis Sproul, Ph.D.

Fans at home games of the Savannah Bananas baseball team have a new, appealing way to stay cool on sweltering Savannah days thanks to the creativity of several Georgia Southern University Parker College of Business students. 

Rachel Hart, Jessica Longoria and Katie Hillery were the brains behind the Fanana, a battery-operated misting fan that Savannah Bananas fans can use to keep cool during games. 

Hart, Longoria and Hillery’s team was one of six in a small business management class that created a product concept or prototype for the Savannah Bananas to help enhance the fan experience for home games. 

“This project helped us use the materials we were learning in class and apply them to real life,” Hart said. “To prepare for the project, we found available vendors who would supply the product, conducted a price analysis and conducted market research.”

The class, instructed by Curtis Sproul, Ph.D., assistant professor of management, on the Armstrong Campus, presented their ideas to Jesse Cole, the owner and president of the Savannah Bananas. In addition to the Fanana, the organization has adopted another idea from the class — a T-shirt design contest. 

“Everything we do is about how we get our fans involved in the experience of our company, and we had never done a fan-designed T-shirt contest,” said Cole. “When we put that out there, we had hundreds of comments and almost 100 submissions of really well-done artwork. When we narrowed it down to the final five, we ended up getting thousands of comments and remarks. That shirt, I could argue and say it’s been one of the bestsellers we’ve ever had in our four years here, and it all came from working together at brainstorming ideas.”

Cole was notably impressed with the students.

“The class’ enthusiasm was second to none,” said Cole. “I have spoken to a lot of classes in my day, and seeing these kids really get excited about it meant a lot because obviously, the Bananas are part of this community.” 

Sproul believes students gained invaluable real-world experience from the project.

“This project helped these students by giving them experience with product design from conceptualization to market,” said Sproul. “They were able to grow their skill set by overcoming challenges such as working with a company to make sure their creation was a unique, cost-effective, feasible and quality product, while having to make adjustments to the product.” 

Hart agreed. 

“This experience has given me real-life marketing and research experience that I can use in a future career,” she said. “Our teacher, Dr. Sproul, offered encouragement and advice along the way that helped us perfect our product. We are very excited that Georgia Southern and the Savannah Bananas gave us this opportunity.”.


Parker College of Business Pivots Towards Analytics

Effective July 1, the Parker College of Business’ Department of Information Systems will change its name to the Department of Enterprise Systems and Analytics. The new name better represents the direction of the program and the opportunities in the market.

The new department will blend curricula from the Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) in information systems with cutting-edge material in statistical analyses to create a BBA in enterprise systems and analytics. The Department will continue to draw on its traditional strengths in ERP/SAP, while the business intelligence, enterprise resource planning and enterprise security emphases will be streamlined into the enterprise systems track, providing a more cohesive program for the students.

“Going forward, we have the opportunity to leverage our current enterprise systems expertise with the college’s analytical expertise and general business knowledge to offer a true business analytics degree,” states Steve Moss, Ph.D., professor of business analytics. “The combination of data management, analytical, business and problem-solving skills our students will attain differentiates us from many other programs.”

The Department will also offer a new business analytics track. Business analytics is an emerging area in academics, focusing on predictive analytics together with the application skills to help students address complex issues in business. The new curriculum will include courses in business analytics, machine learning and big data technology. With the new focus, students will be more marketable to employers in this rapidly growing field.

According to PwC, formerly Price Waterhouse Cooper, jobs in business analytics will grow by 26% in the finance and insurance industries, 45% in manufacturing and 46% in retail. A degree in business analytics offers students the opportunity to make sound, integrated business decisions in marketing and sales, production, manufacturing, logistics and human resources, among others, using big data and statistical analyses. On average, starting salaries in business analytics can be as high as $129,800 per year, making them among the highest paid specialties in business. Companies like The Home Depot, IBM, Lockheed Martin, JP Morgan Chase, UPS and many others use business analytics in their day-to-day operations.


Georgia CEO Q2 2019 finds confidence levels in business conditions remain high while managing growth is a challenge

Confidence levels in the business conditions of the Georgia economy remain high and participants think most upcoming challenges are related to business growth, according to a recent survey of Georgia CEO readers working in the state of Georgia.

The Business Confidence Survey is prepared for Georgia CEO by the Center for Business Analytics and Economic Research (CBAER), a subdivision of the Business Innovation Group (BIG) at Georgia Southern University. A convenience sampling technique is used in the survey, and respondents are asked to rate their concerns over upcoming or ongoing issues that may affect the growth and profitability of Georgia businesses.

“If we look at the overall impression of the current environment, we see that respondents are confident about the overall business environment moving forward,” said Ben McKay, CBAER assistant director. “The concerns expressed most by those surveyed are finding, hiring and retaining good employees. In total, 94% view business conditions improving or unchanged, and we see that successfully managing and maintaining growth is at the forefront of business leaders’ minds.”

Growth indicators — such as an increase in the percentage of participants with positive sentiments related to the volume of business, sales, financial health, profitability and access to capital — are improving when respondents are asked for their future outlook. The strongest indicator was the volume of business, which 60% of all participants expect to grow in the future. That figure is up from 51% compared to the first quarter of 2019. Fifty-seven percent of respondents said they expect to see growth in sales, up from 47% in the first quarter of this year.

Optimism is shrinking about hiring quality employees, which is dampening an otherwise overall positive outlook. Less than 45% of respondents said they see these situations improving over the next quarter.

“Maintaining good relationships with key employees will be crucial moving forward — especially as businesses manage growing sales numbers and client bases,” said McKay. “It will be important to have trusted, reliable employees managing growth while looking for quality players to add to the team.”

BIG and CBAER are components of the Parker College of Business at Georgia Southern University. Georgia Southern is a research university with more than 25,000 students on three campuses in Statesboro, Hinesville and Savannah. The questionnaire was emailed to subscribers of each of the 12 Georgia CEO daily newsletters. Georgia CEO publishes newsletters in Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Middle Georgia, Newnan, Rome, Savannah, Tifton and Valdosta. The survey was open from April 2 through 19. In total, 102 valid responses were recorded.


Parker College of Business management students conduct research for Briggs & Stratton

l-r: David Sikora, Ph.D., associate professor of management and co-advisor of SHRM – Student Chapter; Evan Hartzog; Brandon Lee; John Harris, Ph.D., assistant professor of management and co-advisor of SHRM – Student Chapter

Georgia Southern University’s student chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) teamed up with the Statesboro location of manufacturing company Briggs & Stratton to help the company better understand why long-term employees choose to stay.

The executive board of SHRM worked in groups to conduct 22 stay interviews in mid-April. Much like exit interviews when people resign from a company, the stay interviews help Briggs & Stratton Human Resources Manager Amanda See (MGMT, ’97; MBA, ’01) to understand what has kept the longer-term employees on the job.

The students worked with See to complete the interviews, while SHRM co-advisors John Harris, Ph.D., assistant professor of management, and David Sikora, Ph.D., associate professor of management, helped work out the details and a timeline for executing and delivering results.

Interviewees were all in the technician classification, which requires more experience and has proven harder to fill in recent years. More than half of the employees in this area had been on the job for five or more years, with 32% having worked at Briggs for more than 10 years.

The findings of the interviews were overwhelmingly positive. The majority of those interviewed generally enjoy working at Briggs and would recommend the company to friends or family looking for jobs. Interviewees also seemed to have a desire for more training and communication between shifts and on their performance. Most of the concerns mentioned were areas that the managers are already working on solutions.

Students Evan Hartzog and Brandon Lee presented their findings to plant manager James Suchovsky and other Briggs & Stratton managers on May 16.

“The students impressed us with the project,” said Suchovsky. “The information collected and recommended will help us retain and better engage our personnel in the future. The students did a great job presenting their data, and we thank them for the support.”

Briggs has operated in the Bulloch County Gateway Industrial Park since 1995. In early 2018, Briggs headquarters in Wisconsin announced that V-Twin Vanguard engine production would relocate from Japan to the U.S. This relocation created new jobs in Statesboro and in the company’s Auburn, Alabama, factory.


Georgia Southern grad named Student Anaplanner of the Year

Jaymin Patel, a recent finance and information systems graduate from the Parker College of Business at Georgia Southern University, was named Student Anaplanner of the Year by Anaplan Inc., a pioneer in Connected Planning, which joins people together with plans and data to accelerate business value. He was recognized in San Francisco at the company’s Connected Planning Xperience (CPX) conference in June. 

“This award is probably the best award I have received this far because it symbolizes my transition from the academic world to the corporate world,” said Patel. “Anaplan has helped me gain certifications and become more knowledgeable in transformational cloud software. After attending the conference, I strongly encourage other Georgia Southern students to take advantage of the Anaplan program because there is immense demand in this career field with a shortage in supply.”

Patel earned the achievement through Anaplan University Connect, a program launched by the company that equips university students with competitive analytical and decision-making skills to address the needs of today’s global marketplace. The courses Patel took through this program helped him land a data analyst role at Equifax, a global data analytics and technology company.

“Jaymin represents an example of a dedicated and hardworking student and demonstrates what the students at the Parker College of Business are able to accomplish,” said Axel Grossmann, Ph.D., professor of finance. “We are very proud of him! Moreover, the relationship with the Anaplan University Connect Program has created another opportunity that allows our students to compete with the best at globally recognized companies.” 

The Anaplan University Connect program works closely with leading universities around the globe to develop and deliver a model building curriculum that incorporates the latest data science methods to modern business planning practices. Professors in the Parker College of Business worked directly with representatives from Anaplan to implement the Connect Program at Georgia Southern to incorporate the Anaplan certification into a class. 

The certification course is mainly open to a select group of students in the Southern Investment Association (SIA). The course usually requires students to be involved with SIA portfolio for a year, learn financial modeling with Excel and investments strategies, and to obtain professional certifications, such as Anaplan, Bloomberg Market Concepts and Thomson Reuters Eikon.

Students must work through several videos and training sessions online to build several Anaplan models and complete a final online examination, which requires them to prepare a final Anaplan Model.

Jaymin Patel, a recent finance and information systems graduate from the Parker College of Business at Georgia Southern University, was named Student Anaplanner of the Year by Anaplan Inc., a pioneer in Connected Planning. He was recognized in San Francisco at the company’s Connected Planning Xperience (CPX) conference June 10 through 12.

Patel earned the achievement through Anaplan University Connect, a program launched by the company that equips university students with competitive analytical and decision-making skills to address the needs of today’s global marketplace. The courses Patel took through this program helped him land a data analyst role at Equifax, a global data analytics and technology company.

The Anaplan University Connect program works closely with leading universities around the globe to develop and deliver a model building curriculum that incorporates the latest data science methods to modern business planning practices. With valuable and real-world data analysis skills, students from the program are hired to quickly contribute to the digital transformation efforts of enterprise companies.