Business department celebrates local partnerships

Last Tuesday, the business department hosted its annual Calvin Business Partners Award Luncheon, an event honoring businesses and individuals in the Grand Rapids area that have partnered with Calvin’s business program in various ways, including sponsoring the Calvin Action Project (CAP), a program that challenges students to solve real-world problems. Now entering its fourth year, the luncheon serves as a gathering space where business students, alumni and others can hear from a respected speaker and network with businesses and professionals.

This year’s speaker, Dr. Tracy Brower, shed insights on how weaving a work-life support system into an organization’s culture can help companies cultivate a talented workforce, drawing themes from her newest book “Bring Work to Life by Bringing Life to Work.”

 “Work-life balance is not such a helpful concept,” said Brower, “because it’s about trade-offs … and you’re always in this place of finding equilibrium.” Instead, Brower emphasized work-life integration, a model she finds more conducive to maintaining boundaries while allowing the workplace to thrive.

 In addition to the keynote speaker, the luncheon also included a talk from accounting student Emily Strikwerda, who held an internship at Plante Moran, one of the nation’s largest public accounting and business advisory firms. The advisory firm—known for its award-winning culture and its commitment to attracting talent—was recognized at the luncheon as one of the college’s Outstanding Corporate Business Partners of 2015.

One of the more influential ways businesses and individuals have partnered with Calvin is through the sponsoring of CAPs. The program is structured to match teams of students with a specific business problem—whether it be in the area of accounting, financing, marketing, management or strategy—that a real business is facing. Over the course of a year, the team meets with the business and proposes a project to address the problem.

“Calvin’s business majors all work on at least three Calvin Action Projects while they are students at Calvin, which gives them real-world learning experiences,” said Bob Eames, director of the Calvin Center for Innovation in Business. “Last year we did 99 projects for over 50 unique clients. In total, we’ve done literally hundreds of projects in the five years that we have called them CAPs and hundreds more before that.”

The program was based on the MAP projects, a signature program at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. CAPs are likely so successful because they are a win-win situation—students gain experience working in the real world, while businesses can get educated input on how to solve some of their problems. “The projects themselves can be tricky because they are real and the business world and our clients are always changing, which is what makes the experience so valuable,” said Eames.

“I didn’t know CAP was a thing, and I’m a business major,” said senior Andrew Darmawan. “Calvin should know about this opportunity.” Since the inception of the CAP, students have partnered with businesses like Herman Miller, Steelcase, and Wolverine World Wide, and their number of partnerships has only been increasing.