News at Smith

Scholars Dive into Silicon Valley

Aug 17, 2018
Experiential / Reality-based Learning

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How do you communicate if you're not allowed to talk? University of Maryland undergraduate students on a travel-study course to Silicon Valley learned by experience when they visited alumnus Brad Margolis at Electronic Arts.

Students had 15 minutes to plan and navigate an “electronic” path on a mat created by Margolis, a 1994 graduate of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business and senior director of Executive Development & Organization Effectiveness at EA.

The rules of the game were simple. Students could only move one square at a time. If they moved to the wrong spot, a buzzer would sound and send them back to the beginning. But they had to backtrack properly, and no oral or written communication was allowed.

The site visit was part of the “Innovation Immersion” experience for students in the Business, Society & the Economy College Park Scholars program, sponsored by Maryland Smith and led by faculty champion Mark Wellman.

Participants met alumni at Apple, Google, Netflix and other Silicon Valley giants from Aug. 13-15, 2018. Then they traveled to Portland for two days before heading north to Seattle and parts of Alaska.

Students will return to Maryland on Aug. 22 after meeting alumni at 16 companies on the leading edge of technology and commerce. The study trip also will include a glacier hike, a dogsled tour and marine cruise.

Wellman says the course challenges students to make connections between academic theory and real-world practice.

“The course helps students integrate concepts from their previous courses and gain valuable field experience by tackling actual business problems and opportunities facing the organizations,” he says. “Students gain great insights into how each business works, their unique cultures, and how different roles and functions work together within companies.”

College Park Scholars provides intellectual challenges for engaged and academically talented freshmen and sophomores in close-knit communities. Students accepted to any of the 12 programs live in shared dorms and study together on campus.

“Scholars programs are all about community, service and collaboration,” says Victor Mullins, associate dean of Undergraduate Programs and diversity officer at Maryland Smith. “The annual Innovation Immersion experience is a great example of the quality programming. Scholars tap into the power of the Smith alumni network while seeing business in action.”

All-Star Lineup

Alumni speakers and panelists during the 10-day “Innovation Immersion” included:

  • Howard White, vice president of the Jordan Brand, Nike.
  • Zeta Smith, senior vice president, Starbucks.
  • Richard Aberman, founder, WePay.
  • Andrew Park, senior manager, technology strategy and analysis, Netflix.
  • Dave Rensin, director of customer reliability engineering and network capacity, Google
  • John “JG” Chirapurath, general manager, Azure data & AI, Microsoft.
  • Nelson Farris, global human resource talent development, Nike
  • Gary Swart, general partner, Polaris Partners.
  • Monique Hayward, director of IT marketing and communications, Intel.
  • Richard Zawitz, creator, Tangle Creations
  • Samantha Hess, founder, Cuddle Up to Me
  • Rich Roberson, senior patent counsel, Adidas
  • Ken Cohen, account operations director, Nike

About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business 

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, specialty masters, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.