Colleges’ Sociology Class Travels to American Greetings for First-Hand Business Lessons – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
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Colleges’ Sociology Class Travels to American Greetings for First-Hand Business Lessons

Jack Harris’ business and management class learns critical business strategies in the volatile dot-com sector

November 22, 2002 Geneva, N.Y. — The students in Professor Jack Harris’ business and management class got a first-hand lesson in business last week when they traveled to Cleveland, Ohio, to the home of the American Greetings Corporation. The class has been studying organization structures and management practices in the context of the global economy. Harris, associate professor of anthropology and sociology, and Brian Young, vice president for information technology and CIO at Hobart and William Smith Colleges who arranged the visit, knew that talking to someone with years of experience in these matters would aid their understanding.

Jim Spira, Hobart Class of ’64 and a member of the Colleges’ Board of Trustees, offered the class that experience. Spira, who is president and chief operating officer at American Greetings, has served on the board of directors of American Greetings since 1998. He co-founded Cleveland Consulting Associates in 1974, and it was acquired by Computer Science Corp. in 1989. Before that, he spent several years at Ernst and Young and A.T. Kearney. Spira consulted to American Greetings for more than 30 years on a wide range of operations management, business processes and reengineering.

The class spent half of Friday, Nov. 15, learning about American Greetings, especially the creative group and the dot-com group. They talked with Spira, and also met with David Beittel, senior vice president for creative design and a Hobart graduate Class of 1970. In addition, they met with Mary Beth Sibert, director of creative design, who led the class in a detailed tour of the creative departments. The group met with the management team that included Josef Mandelbaum, chief executive officer; Sharon Schneider, senior vice president for marketing; Sally Babcock, vice president for product development; and John Watson, vice president for web development. The students were especially interested in critical business strategies in the volatile dot-com sector.

The Sociology of Business and Management course provides an applied sociological analysis of the major trends shaping business in the U.S. and worldwide. At the micro level students learn about business organization and management; at the macro level they explore how businesses operate within economic and cultural systems.

“The visit to American Greetings gave the class real tangibility,” said Harris. “We have spent many weeks studying theories of organization, management, and reengineering in the global context. The visit provided students with hard evidence that knowing your customer is a key to business success, that developing employees as knowledge workers is good management, and the right organizing principles can unleash extraordinary creative potential.”

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Left to right: Drury Mackenzie, Tim Martin, P.J. Lee, Rebekah Larsen, Spira, Derek Beatrice, Tessa Jenkins, Brian Young, Christiana Vanvorhees, Jack Harris, Geoffrey Henschel.