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First year students gain “valuable insights” through practical work with Unilever

09 Aug 2017

Undergraduate students at the Business School have had the opportunity to gain “valuable insights” into the realities of the business world by developing and presenting a range solutions to problems faced by the multinational consumer giant, Unilever, as part of a first year unit.

The Future of Business (BUSS1000) course, co-ordinated by Dr Steven Hitchcock, partnered with global consumer goods company Unilever and its Lipton brand to provide practical coursework experience.

“This really presented an opportunity to help our students connect with what’s going on in the world,” said Dr Hitchcock. “As a teacher I think this is fantastic. The students can see that the reason we’re talking about issues surrounding, for example, sustainability and stakeholder conflict is because these are the problems organisations are facing.”

“Working with a company like Unilever has given us plenty of opportunities to see what it’s like in big industries and hopefully that would open up many more opportunities,” said BUSS1000 student Andrew Chen. 

The course aims to give students practical experience of dealing with facing business challenges such as climate change and sustainability, the future of work and workforce diversity, by asking them to find a solution to a current problem Lipton is facing.

“What we saw in the quality of the presentations were these amazing ideas and both we and Unilever were so impressed,” said Dr Hitchcock. “It’s a really awesome opportunity to help the students realise what they can do already in their first year.”

The strongest candidates were selected based on the quality of their presentation or the strength of their idea, and five finalist teams were invited to present their solutions to Unilever.

Interviews with people from across different sectors of Unilever, including the CEO of Unilever Australia & New Zealand, formed part of the course. 

“Our students get that applied experience,” said Dr Hitchcock. “But beyond that, they can see how whatever we’re covering in class may mean different things to different people within the same team and the same organisation, so they’re really valuable insights for students.”

Students who presented said that industry exposure, first-hand experience, feedback and being given the opportunity to execute their own business ideas were some of the perks of the unit.

“It’s really important to work with a company [whilst studying] because you can see how businesses really work in actuality, instead of all the theoretical stuff, which helps you understand what skills you need to get in to the workforce and what you need to be successful,” said BUSS1000 student Julia Marks.

One idea that was pitched was a women empowerment program and thank you campaign as “a way for Lipton to say thank you to the industries that have supported them and a way to enact change and empower women globally,” said BUSS1000 student Becky Gulia.

Another idea included "gamifying" the consumer purchasing experience to encourage sustainable purchases.

“It’s been amazing to learn how to do an industry-style presentation and to talk to people from Unilever, and learn about what it is like to be a woman in the workplace and what to expect,” said Ms Gulia.

“Unilever has been really supportive, and gave us some really great feedback and have been really encouraging the entire way,” said BUSS1000 student Rebecca Findlay.

“On behalf of the school and our students, I’d like to thank Unilever for giving our students the wonderful opportunity to bring their academic studies to life,” said Associate Dean (Undergraduate Business), Associate Professor Rae Cooper.

The course will run again in semester 2 and is a core course for first year undergraduate Commerce students.