Flushing, N.Y., March 22, 2013 − Assuring everyone in the room that as a Chinese American he could make the statement without reservation, Queens College student Jacob Zhang offered this premise upon which he believed a thriving new business could be founded: “Chinese wine is terrible.”
Zhang and five other students had just spent a few weeks of their winter break compiling a considerable body of data to make a case for creating a business to export Argentinian wines to China to satisfy the growing demand among China’s rapidly expanding middle class for an alternative to the “terrible” domestic wine now available to them. Utilizing PowerPoint visuals, Zhang and the other members of the group presented information they hoped would entice investors to become part of this new business venture.
The wine exports project was one of four presentations made January 25 at the Agora Café in the Student Union. The others included a proposal to develop a healthier sports drink derived from watermelon puree; a study of ways to improve the college’s recruitment of foreign students; and a survey of three Queens neighborhoods—Jackson Heights, Fresh Meadows, and Long Island City—to determine what franchise businesses might thrive at specific locations in those communities.
These Consulting Projects were the brainchild of Len Schutzman ’67, founder of QC’s Schutzman Center for Entrepreneurship. Schutzman created these opportunities for students to perform “consulting” work as part of the Provost Office’s new January Field Work Experience Project. Described in a December announcement from the provost, the three-week program allows students to “dedicate their time to testing and applying knowledge through internships, community service, study abroad, research, or career-related experiences.”
Throughout their three weeks, the Consulting Projects students had the opportunity to interact almost daily with Schutzman and other members of his Schutzman Associates Consulting Group, who served as mentors offering real-world counsel as the students learned how to find the data that could drive informed investment decisions in their assignment area. (The healthier sports drink and wine exports projects very likely may see Schutzman and one or two of his associates as investors.)
According to Special Assistant to the Provost Yasemin Jones, the idea to offer these “mini-internships” grew out of conversations Schutzman had been having with Provost James Stellar about Stellar’s desire to provide students with more opportunities for experiential learning.
As Schutzman, a former senior vice president at PepsiCo, explains, “Getting a job these days is a challenge. The big problem is a lack of experience. I used to do recruiting, and every resume for a college graduate looked the same: ‘I got a BA in this; I went to this school . . . ’ What separates them is internships and practical experience. So we began talking about doing mini-internships. Yasemin said she was thinking about something called the Winter Experience and this [the Consulting Projects] seemed a good melding of the two ideas.”
“The Consulting Projects,” continues Jones, “ultimately became the cornerstone of the January Field Work Program.” The program offers three other options: World of Work Sites, Strengthening Communities, and January Science Lab Projects.
In mid-December, she recounts, the Provost’s Office put out a call to students to enlist for the program. Of 40 who applied for the Consulting Projects, 24 (four groups of six) were selected from across the majors and based on their interest and experience. They met for the first time on January 7 with Schutzman greeting them and explaining the four projects via Skype.
Three weeks later, sitting at a table across from his 24 student consultants, Schutzman concluded his comments by paying them the highest compliment: “You delivered first-class work.”
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Contact: Phyllis Cohen Stevens
Deputy Director of News Services
Assistant Director of News Services