Change Agents

eight students speak on industry trends and their college experiences

Mariel DehnMariel Dehn, Senior
Program: Food and Consumer Package Goods Marketing

Keeping it real

“The buying behaviors of Millennials are changing how companies operate in our industry. Millennials have now overcome the buying power of Baby Boomers, and they are scrutinizing ingredient statements. They are requesting healthier products, free of dyes and artificial ingredients, without a rise in product prices. Our industry must listen to these consumers and adapt to answer their needs. We are now seeing Fortune 500 companies make such adjustments and acquire brands that cater to the natural segment. To reach Millennials, companies are also adapting their marketing strategies, particularly in the area of social media.”

On her college experience

“During my college experience, I was able to really remake myself. From case studies, to conferences, to becoming president of the Food Marketing Association, I have had the opportunity to get involved and become a rising leader. At orientation, I was told that the college has great resources as long as you are willing to put in the work, and four years later, this statement could not be more true.”

Holly HagertyHolly Hagerty, Senior
Program: Human Resource Management

The latest species

“Bridging the generational gap with Millennials has been a hot topic in recent years. Millennials are often talked about as if they are a different species from older generations; consequently, organizations aren’t sure how to integrate them into their workforces. Among the stereotypes, the most common are that they are technologically dependent, job hoppers and emotionally needy.

Organizations face the dilemma of how to break down the barriers of generational differences in their workforces. Challenges can arise from differing thought processes and communication styles of workers born in different eras. Thus, HR professionals will need to effectively address and take advantage of the differences in the values and expectations of each generation to encourage inclusion as well as organizational and individual success. Overcoming these challenges will require strategies such as diversity training, multi-generational mentoring and accommodation to work styles.

Companies should capitalize on what value Millennials can add. In my current role, my direct supervisor is a Baby Boomer. Our multi-generational team enables us to blend our different ways of thinking to lead to greater innovation. Our communication and work styles are not the same, but it is our differences that make us a successful team.”

Aaron McClendonAaron McClendon, Senior
Program: Integrated Supply Management

In the middle

“We are experiencing a shift away from traditional third party services and towards automation. Ever since the explosion of Uber, companies across the globe are now developing technology to support the expansion of on-demand business models in industries that have favored more traditional ones. This trend is emerging in the trucking industry, as multiple venture-backed tech startups are working to connect manufacturers with local trucking companies so that they no longer need to rely on third party logistics firms.

Although it’s a $650 billion industry, shipping freight can be a slow and inefficient process. And because it isn’t the sexiest industry, it can be a challenge to attract the right talent to capitalize on these challenges. However, it is important for both manufacturers and logistics companies not to underestimate the speed at which these early-stage technologies should be adopted. They should invest early on to remain competitive and avoid losing market share in the long run.”

Chase RauChase Rau, Senior
Program: Marketing

No waiting

“With a booming e-commerce industry and the rise of technology, companies are faced with the challenge of finding new ways to promote their products and services, rather than relying on traditional or point-of-purchase methods.
Recent innovations like Amazon Go, an advanced shopping technology that allows consumers to purchase items without waiting in line, show what is possible for the future. Quick, easy and painless: that is what today’s consumers want. Whether it is grocery delivery, meal kit delivery or personal shopping subscription services, convenience is key. The challenge is to promote products and services in this new era. The solution will most likely be in digital and social media marketing. In addition, the industry is starting to see more location-based marketing via mobile devices.”

Lessons on change

“The Haworth College of Business not only teaches students about current industry trends but also asks students to think beyond today and discover new ways to generate consumer interest. In short, the professors teach less about adapting to changes in marketing trends and more about influencing such changes."

Sibie DanielSibie Daniel, Senior
Program: Accountancy

Counting down

“Customer service is becoming increasingly important in accounting. The traditional model of infrequent one-to-one formal meetings is rapidly being replaced by a trend of having continuous and ongoing engagement between firms and their clients. Today, accounting professionals need to be versatile, using both in-person and technology-enabled contact to assist their clients. Innovation and growth in technology will change the way accounting is done, improve client support services, and in some ways, change the very definition of an accountant in the future.”

On his college experience

“As an international student, choosing to go to WMU to earn a degree in accountancy has been the biggest decision of my life, and it has also been the best decision I have ever made. Personally, I have found myself a home in this college amongst a group of peers with whom I belong and thrive. Professionally, I have been able to prepare myself to tackle the challenges that are headed my way and have had access to experienced professionals to help me lay the foundation for a successful career.”

Erin SionkowskiErin Sionkowski, Senior
Program: Electronic Business Marketing

Model behavior

“Content created specifically for the digital channel is where I see the greatest potential for change. Eventually, old marketing models won’t work. Currently, marketing is a mix of status quo practices and practices that have been adapted to accommodate for technological advances, but this model is not sustainable. Technology has changed the way our lives work and making it central to the focus and design of marketing campaigns is a must. With the dwindling effectiveness of television commercials and print media, marketers will have to continue to develop completely new methods to reach their target markets to avoid shouting into a void.”

On her major

“Electronic business marketing allows me to take classes in marketing, programming and data analytics, giving me a well-rounded education in both information technology and marketing. Because of this, I do not think of digital marketing as only social media and email marketing; I think of creating a virtual reality experience to replace traditional online shopping or a mobile application that promotes products while simplifying the purchasing experience—perspectives I wouldn’t have developed without the curriculum put in place by the Haworth College of Business.”

Dorian CorbettDorian Corbett, Senior

Program: Finance

Piquing your interest

“Low interest rates have been the topic of discussion in regards to the sluggish U.S. economy over the past several months. The moderate increase of rates by the Federal Open Market Committee this past winter and spring may indicate the beginning of a positive shift for the economy. The FOMC has been keeping rates low to stimulate economic growth by way of increased investments and consumer spending. Although the committee expects gradual increases provided economic conditions continue to evolve, they also believe rates are likely to remain low for some time. Since indicators such as labor market strength and jobless claims are holding steady or are mildly improving, there is reason to be optimistic. And, with lower interest rates, businesses can take calculated risks to borrow and invest in their companies and hopefully look forward to continued economic improvements that will support their business growth.”

On the college’s technology

“The implementation of Bloomberg terminals in the college has immensely helped students with research of trends such as this one above. In addition, the computer applications in finance course offers students credit for completion of the Bloomberg Market Concepts course, which introduces the financial markets and more than 70 Bloomberg terminal functions and benchmarks.”

Kaitlyn WatkinsKaitlyn Watkins, Graduate Student

Program: Master of Science in Accountancy

Skyrocketing data

“Business throughout the world is constantly changing and growing because of the technology that is available at the fingertips of today’s consumers. Since accountants deal with a variety of businesses, it is important to be versatile and understand the business models of a variety of companies. Companies like Uber, Venmo, Zappos, Warby Parker, and TurboTax are all internet-based companies where transactions happen on the consumer’s computer or mobile device. I believe this trend will continue to skyrocket. This is a new business model that accountants need to understand and be able to analyze, especially with the high volume of sales in these online companies. Being able to efficiently and effectively analyze big data is very important as an upcoming accountant.”

The art of conversation

“During my college experience, I have learned how to speak and communicate in front of large groups of people with ease. I will take this skill into the professional world by being able to give presentations to my colleagues or clients.”

Faculty share perspectives on coming trends

Management expert Peter Drucker once said “We now accept the fact that learning is a lifelong process of keeping abreast of change.”

The college’s faculty work diligently to shape students’ knowledge of emerging trends. Relying on their research and industry experience, faculty instill in students the importance of recognizing and adapting to these changes. Recently, faculty members shared some of the top trends representing their areas of expertise, such as this one from Dr. Kelley O’Reilly, associate professor of marketing and expert in retail, entrepreneurship and franchising:

“Automation will require more adaptation from salespeople. Technology has advanced to the point that many steps in the sales process can now be effectively automated (think prospecting). This will necessitate a crop of sales professionals who can adapt to a changing sales role and who can focus more on delivering high-tech, high-touch enabled solutions.”

Visit wmich.edu/business/trends to read more on what faculty members had to say.