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Making Connections: Small Business Class Opens Big Doors

Dr. Dennis Barber with Matthew Zamjohn on the Armstrong campus.

(April 19, 2017) – In the Small Business Consulting course taught by Dennis Barber, Ph.D., Armstrong Economics professor and Small Business Institute director, undergraduates gain firsthand experience in Savannah’s small business community, which is a leader in the state.

Business Economics students with a focus on marketing study organizational structure, finance, human resources, volunteer recruitment and market feedback, as well as other areas, in Barber’s class. They are then grouped and assigned to local participating businesses, based on industry, background and skillset preferences, and create detailed consulting reports that are presented to business owners.

“I think experiential learning is very high-impact in upper-level classes,” says Barber. “This also has a component of service learning, as they’re offering a free service to small businesses.”

Small businesses make up 97 percent of companies doing business in Georgia. The benefit of working with local proprietors has been enormous for students.

“This was the first opportunity of its kind for me as Business Economics major,” says Matthew Zamjohn, an Armstrong senior who took Barber’s course in 2016. “It opened doors for me, as I have already earned a job in the consulting field.”

In February, one group’s project for the Wilmington Island Farmers’ Market won third place in the nation at the 2017 Small Business Institute Conference in San Diego. In addition to job offers and national recognition, Andrew Simpson, a recent Armstrong graduate who took the course last spring, stresses that the class is a perfect fit for students who intend to apply to graduate programs.

“The opportunity to take an experiential learning course provided me with real-world problems to overcome and situations to navigate that standard classroom courses do not have,” he says. “This course has already become the keystone to my graduate school applications.”

Barber hopes to partner with more Savannah businesses in the coming years and help students hone their workforce skills.

“I have become a better leader in my career field and more analytical in my everyday life due to this class,” says Zamjohn. “I will always recommend this course to other students. The coursework is a challenge, but it is rewarding.”

Robert LeFavi, Ph.D.

“I love working with students and inspiring them to succeed.”

Robert LeFavi, Ph.D.
Teaching since: 2003