Nestlé & Hiram

Image: Nestlé & Hiram

How can we show a global company how students from Hiram can problem-solve? In fall 2022, David Kukurza, an entrepreneurship instructor at Hiram, and Hiram alum and Nestlé consumer and marketplace insights lead, Mike Pence ’91, introduced a proposal: an elective 12-week independent study course, offered through the Scarborough School of Business and Communication to any interested major.

Four students from Kukurza’s HighPerformance Program (HPP) were selected for this opportunity: Jordan Mallernee ’23, Camdyn Miller ’22, Robert
James ’23, and Michael Corsillo ’23. “The students in HPP are working through an intensive program that develops their business savviness, work
ethic, and problem-solving skills that will take them to the next level,” said Kukurza. “Businesses are looking for great students. They can teach them the culture of a company or project insights, but they cannot teach effective communication skills or collaboration. That’s where this Nestlé partnership comes in.”

During the Independent Study, students learned about various topics, including the origins of consumer marketing insights in research and related academic disciplines, marketing objectives and challenges, and designing and managing research projects. Students also experienced opportunities not typically available, like shadowing company employees, conducting focus groups, and attending individual meetings with assigned mentors.

As Kukurza notes, business executives want students who have mastered soft skills. However, companies are finding that students
today don’t always have the skills they need to excel, such as oral presentations, response to criticism, navigating the work environment
and networking. “Companies don’t see these types of skills in Gen Z’s and I make sure my students know this and discuss with them how to improve. How can we make ourselves better and be more prepared,” said Kukurza.

“This is one of the top experiential learning opportunities for students.”

Dr. David Strukel

Students were given the opportunity to brainstorm with Nestlé executives on how to better address the future of employment
challenges and work environments. Employers like Nestlé are reevaluating their work structure to provide a more inclusive and comfortable work environment for new generations entering the workforce. To help them, students shadowed company employees, conducted focus groups, and attended individual meetings with assigned mentors. The program concluded with students presenting their findings at Nestlé’s world headquarters to company executives and professors, including Kukurza and David Strukel, Ph.D., director of the Burton D. Morgan Center for Integrated Entrepreneurship.

“This is one of the top experiential learning opportunities for students,” said Dr. Strukel. “They’ve been able to interact with executives at a multi-billion-dollar global company, conduct research, analyze data, and present findings to executives. This was real-world experience, where students learned how to communicate with multiple stakeholders at different levels of a global company. They handled it extremely well.” As this was a pilot course, Kukurza hopes to continue working with Nestlé and similar companies in independent studies like this in the future.