To Pittsburgh for the grand finale
How much potential is there for the new product? What are the needs of the client? Two teams of students from the FHS St.Gallen and Robert Morris University were commissioned by two Swiss businesses to research the US market in depth over a period of four months. The trip to the USA represented the finale of the JUSP real-life student consulting projects.
The teams’ missions were clear: Leica Geosystems AG, based in Germany’s Rhine Valley, wanted to know how much potential there is on the US market for its surveying and geographical measurement tools, software and services. St.Gallen-based Regloplas AG, on the other hand, wanted to find out more about the US die casting industry and the associated market trends. For the students of the FHS St.Gallen, this meant conducting market research across two continents and two time zones – in an intercultural team together with students from Robert Morris University (RMU) in Pittsburgh, USA. The teams first met in person at the beginning of January, during the kick-off week in St.Gallen. Over the course of these few days, they visited the two companies together with their coaches. Their objective was to gather as much information as possible about the customers’ requirements, as well as finalising the Letter of Scope and working on the research design. The teams – which always include three students from each of the two universities – then continued their work in their respective home countries. The students mainly communicated via online tools. In April, the Swiss travelled to Pittsburgh for Final Week, where the highlight was a presentation to the clients, who had travelled there especially.
Specific, paid assignment
The JUSP project (Joint USA Swiss Program) is one of three international real-life student consulting projects offered by the Knowledge Transfer Unit WTT-FHS. It takes the form of a specific, paid assignment from a business or a public institution. They commission final-semester Bachelor’s students on the Business Administration and Business Information Technology degree programs to conduct a market research or management design project with the aim of sounding out opportunities and trends in US market segments. The teams are supervised by coaches from the FHS St.Gallen and RMU, as well as by an intercultural mentor.
Two teams travelled to the USA together. In addition to the six students, the Swiss delegation included the project coaches Franziska Weis and Wilfried Lux from the Institute of Business Management IFU-FHS and Program Director Martina Bechter. “The students’ work on the projects was outstanding, and more than exceeded my expectations,” says a delighted Martina. She thought they worked in a very structured manner. The project is intensive, but the students still managed to surprise her time and again. “On the one hand, with their professional and methodical approach and their intercultural interest; on the other hand, with their ability to trouble-shoot when things didn’t go to plan.”
Work hard, play hard
The students spent ten days in the USA, where the aim was to complete the real-life student consulting projects. The days were filled with team meetings, progress meetings involving the coaches, and meetings with the students’ intercultural mentor Christa Uehlinger. There was also enough time for various activities and social events, during which the participants had the chance to get to know the country and its people a bit better. “For example, RMU coaches Jill Maher and Daria Crawley invited us round to their homes. And the teams also attended a yoga session and a lacrosse game on the RMU campus,” reports Martina. The FHS students were even allowed to take part in the School of Business Celebration of Excellence. The Cultural Day was a mixture of work and play. “We went to a golf driving range. For many of the participants, it was a new experience. The target focus that we always expect from the students on the projects could be applied in a more relaxed environment for once, with golf clubs and golf balls,” says Martina.
RMU as a committed partner
She is full of praise for the partnership with RMU. “It is a committed and trustworthy partner who does a lot to ensure that its Master’s students can participate on the program despite their intensive day-to-day study routines.” She found the American students to be interested, creative and competent. They were more than happy to play the role of host for their Swiss counterparts. “And thanks to the international tandem of Swiss coach and American coach, the teams benefited from optimum support in the working environments of both countries,” says Martina.
Finale with the clients
The students were well-prepared going into the project’s finale: presenting the results to the clients, who had come all the way from Switzerland for the event and were wowed by the students’ work. Regloplas AG was impressed by the professional working relationship and the results. And Leica Geosystems AG also praised the results, which had clearly exceeded their expectations and will be directly applicable to future projects. Martina, too, believes the trip to the USA was a resounding success: “The projects are a great opportunity for everyone, especially for the students, who get to carry out a real consulting assignment. They also experience intercultural work and learning across two continents at first hand.” The lecturers benefit from working with colleagues from another university and are able to expand their network. “And the clients receive important data and information for their strategies.”