How do you measure the worth of a business degree? Is its value based on the topics that students study? On who teaches those students? On what they do in and out of the classroom?

At Barton College, our School of Business provides all of these opportunities and so much more. Through their experiences here, our students truly realize the lasting significance a Barton business degree makes, thanks to a combination of relevant lessons, talented mentors, and a solid understanding of the real world, learned on campus and across the Wilson community.

One person who can really sell you on the value of a Barton business degree, is the dean of the School of Business, Dr. Kevin Renshler. Each semester, he challenges his Business Policy students with a major community-based assignment. This past spring, his BUS490 class was tasked with building a local retail store from scratch and seeing it through to success. Dr. Renshler’s students teamed up with The SPOT in Wilson, to develop a store that sells new and gently used sporting good equipment at discounted prices. The merchandise is sold to local residents, and the proceeds go back to The SPOT to help fund the many wonderful programs it offers children in our area.

Call it Barton’s version of “The Apprentice.” But instead of being fired, Dr. Renshler sees to it that his students succeed.

“There are points in the semester where they will inevitably fail,” he explains. “But my students must learn from their mistakes and find ways to move forward in a positive direction. These are amazing teaching moments, and one student or one group can educate the whole class from these failures.”

In January, the class was divided into five groups: management, marketing, finance, human resources, and IT & accounting. Working together, students developed a plan, scouted properties, negotiated terms, signed contracts, raised funds, solicited merchandise and other resources, marketed and launched the store, hired a staff ,and managed everything from budgets to payroll.

Perhaps the most compelling exploit of this BUS490 class is that these students accomplished everything, from start to finish, largely on your own. And, we’re not talking about your corner lemonade stand; we mean a real store, with real workers, making real money, and helping real people.

“These projects are not fictitious simulations,” reminds Dr. Renshler. “It is as real-world as a college student can get.”

For their part, the students involved have been excited and ambitious through the entire process. They work together and push themselves for so much more than a letter grade.

“Projects like this make us stand out among our peers,” says recent graduate Holly Lafond. “New college graduates face a lot of competition, and when employers look for those candidates with a business education and business experience, they can look right at us.”

Getting an opportunity to work closely with the community while still in school was truly eye opening for recent graduate Josh Williams. He sees first-hand how committed business practices can benefit all of those around us.

“Growing up in Wilson, I have experienced a lot here,” he says. “I’ve been so lucky to have a support system keeping me on the right path. Not everyone has those same luxuries, and an organization like The SPOT does amazing things. It really hits home for me. It inspires me to want to help and give back to my community. Wilson is my home, and I’ll do everything I can to see it prosper.”

Colleges and universities across the region are amazed when they learn what Barton business students are doing at the undergraduate level. External class projects that offer such a wide range and genuine impact are common at the graduate school level, but are relatively unheard of in baccalaureate degree programs.

“That’s what makes us so unique,” says Dr. Renshler. “We’re not your usual, cookie-cutter curriculum. I want us to be recognized for having one of the best undergraduate business programs around. Barton is truly outstanding and second to none.”

So what’s next? How does Dr. Renshler plan on introducing more people to Barton’s outstanding School of Business?

“We have applied for accreditation to the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business,” he says. “We’re excited. Only 5% of business schools in the world are accredited by this international body. And, we hope to be one of them.”

At Barton College, “business as usual” is anything but.