Syracuse University’s Whitman to launch company run by students

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In what is billed as a groundbreaking form of experiential learning, or perhaps an adult equivalent version of playing shop, Syracuse University’s Martin J Whitman School of Management has created its own company to be run by students.

Kenneth Kavajecz, Whitman’s dean and professor of finance, insisted that the venture, called Consurtio, is a serious business idea but that the teaching experience would be more important than achieving a profit.

“Our primary goal is not to make money,” he says. “Our focus is to engage students and help them gain real-world experience.”

Terry Brown, executive director of Whitman’s Falcone Center for Entrepreneurship and Consurtio’s chief executive, states the aim was to deliver a product that was equal or better than that available already, chiefly to start-ups and not-for-profit organisations.

“There is nothing better than project-based learning,” he mentions. “Students remember and internalise those experiences.”

Consurtio will offer help to distressed companies by analysing whether those businesses can be turned around and relaunched. A start-up arm will provide resources and services to those who wish to start a new business or propel it forward.

Customers were likely to be those that could not afford the services of larger firms providing the same services as Consurtio, according to Mr Brown.

“Consurtio is not only transforming business education at Whitman but also supporting local companies and economic development both across central New York and nationally,” he notes.

MBA students will be involved in the management of the business, which will issue shares to help fund operations, supported by faculty, staff, alumni and outside professionals.

The Securities and Exchange Commission is recognising Consurtio to allow students to be accountable for activities involved in issuing public shares, such as making the appropriate filings and holding investor meetings. However, the equity will not have a monetary value.

Syracuse University has earmarked a proportion of its endowment to fund operation costs. Any profits the business makes will be reinvested in the company to help sustain it.

“Companies do need to make a profit. However, this company exists to support student education,” a Whitman spokesperson says. “The founders did not want anything to deter from that focus.”

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