In 2004, 3M was the first corporation to approach DePaul about developing a sales leadership education program. “Today, we have 64 business partners—companies that provide funding and internships, guide curriculum design, lecture in classes, coach students, provide technologies and data for projects, and offer outstanding career opportunities,” says Dan Strunk, executive in residence and managing director of the Center for Sales Leadership. “This collaborative effort between business and academia is preparing the next generation of talent. Everyone wins—the students, the businesses and the university.”
The center partners with Fortune 500 companies, including PepsiCo, Chase, MillerCoors and Wrigley, to shape its curriculum and stay relevant in an ever-changing job market. Students in the Sales Leadership Program can earn a minor or concentration by choosing between two tracks: sales in any industry or category management in the consumer products industry, which looks at grouping products to optimize relevance and sales.
The program’s case-study structure lets students merge theory with practice and provides immediate interaction with company representatives. Leah Sbigoli (BUS ’11) remembers working with Walgreens and Roundy’s in a space management class to create a business plan for optimizing energy drink sales. “In the end, we got to present to the actual category managers at the company and show them our recommendations. I felt like I was seeing the immediate benefits of my education,” says Sbigoli, who now is a space management analyst for partner company Walgreens.
Ren Stoecklin (BUS ’13) agrees. “You knew that you were being given real-life data and that at the end of the quarter, you’d be presenting to industry experts. It really forced you to not just consider it a school assignment, but to consider it a job interview every time you were presenting a final,” says Stoecklin, who worked as a category analyst in partner company Red Bull’s graduate program, an 18-month rotational program for leadership training.
Another program graduate, Claire Hanold (BUS ’13), was impressed by how welcoming the corporate partners were. “They never once treated us like we were college students; they treated us like their business partners and wanted to help each of us individually in any way they could,” says Hanold, who is now a category analyst for partner company PepsiCo’s Foodservice Division. “As an alumna looking back, I owe my success to this program. The professors provided me with the tools and resources to be successful and helped me make connections with our incredible business partners along the way.”
The center’s corporate partnerships also help students see how schoolwork can prepare them for life—and employment—after graduation.
“A lot of time in the classroom concepts and theories can get lost on students if they can’t find a way to apply them to real-life situations,” Sbigoli notes. “By DePaul having connections to companies through the Sales Leadership Program, students can apply [lessons] taught in the classroom directly to their work with these companies. This helps students form connections early on with these companies and develops their skills over time. Students graduate from the program already knowing what to expect from the position they want, and in return companies have a reputable candidate pool to choose from.”
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