A Course Rerouted

Student sneaker prototypes

Nearly 30 Babson students were ready to join Associate Professor Lauren Beitelspacher and Senior Lecturer Richard Goulding for a brand new, industry-specific Elective Abroad in Germany this March.

As part of Intersection of Marketing and Operations: Sneakers, they would travel from Nuremberg to Hamburg, gaining hands-on, experiential learning from alumni-led and other big-name companies, including PUMA (Bjorn Gulden MBA’92, CEO), Adidas, and Etribes (Nils Seebach ’06, CFO and founding partner).

Goulding says the class came to life and was motivated by Gilbert Chesterton’s 100-year-old idea that “we are perishing for lack of wonder, not for lack of wonders.” Looking at global supply chains through this lens would help students better understand society’s “want of wonders” and how it relates to the “appetite for the world’s resources.”

But, as coronavirus continued to spread, and with just two weeks left to spare, Goulding, Beitelspacher, and Babson’s Glavin Office of International Education were forced to come up with plan B and, ultimately, plan C.

And, they had to do it fast.

Guten Tag, From Boston

Just two weeks before boarding their plane to Germany, the group learned of the difficult decision to cancel all Babson programs traveling over spring break.

“Our want for wonders was then replaced by much simpler needs: health, hope, and humanity,” said Goulding.

Disappointed, yet optimistic about the course they could deliver locally, Beitelspacher and Goulding developed a program that would take them into Babson’s Weissman Foundry to design sneaker prototypes, into Boston-based sneaker companies such as New Balance, and to hear from the local German consulate. They would even dine together at a German restaurant in Somerville.

… Or Home

But, just as plans were finalized, Beitelspacher and Goulding were told all Babson courses would transition online.

Plan C.

“I reached out to industry contacts and told them our story, and they bent over backward to work with our students,” shared Beitelspacher. “While we weren’t able to go to Germany, we met industry experts that took the time, above and beyond everything they were dealing with, to have thoughtful, candid, and insightful conversations.”

And, since students could no longer make prototypes in the Foundry, Vans generously donated codes that would allow them to design their own sneaker online. At the end of the course, each student received an actual pair of the Vans sneakers they designed.

Student Vans design
An example design from the course’s prototyping phase with Vans

“Our students responded and the learning environment thrived,” added Goulding. “What we pivoted to was an introspection of who they are and how that is reflected, not in what they buy, but rather in the wonder of what they create.”

Goulding and Beitelspacher were quick to share their gratitude to Justin Kittredge from ISlide, AJ Andrassy at ASICS, Peter von Conta from Vibram, and especially Craig Vanderoef at Vans, for the experience they gifted their students.

I continue to be so impressed with our students. They are so curious and eager to learn, and it’s that genuine passion for knowledge, and resiliency, that will set them apart.

Associate Professor Lauren Beitelspacher

“I’m impressed with how the course developed over time,” said Jack Rokous ’20. “The third iteration was also tremendously useful, and honestly, might have provided us with industry knowledge in a more condensed and useful format,” he added, praising the access he gained to industry executives during this reimagined course.

“I am extremely grateful for the unexpected, equipped speakers that both Dr. Beitelspacher and Professor Goulding were able to connect us with,” said Lauren Vogt ’21. “This course illustrated the resilience of our community and how we truly can combat anything that may be thrown to us.”

“I continue to be so impressed with our students,” closed Beitelspacher. “They are so curious and eager to learn, and it’s that genuine passion for knowledge, and resiliency, that will set them apart.”

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