A variety of news sources have reported that 2015 was a record year for global mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity, with health care and technology sectors leading the way in the U.S. With M&A on the rebound, employment opportunities are also on the rise for business development operations in companies large and small.
With this in mind, Opus College of Business faculty member Mufaddal Baxamusa, Ph.D., took steps to redesign his Mergers & Acquisitions course to provide students with more practical experience through a learning partnership with Ecolab. “The skills needed for today’s business development function are highly sought after,” Baxamusa said. “but practice, feedback and more practice are essential if you want to stand out in today’s fast paced, competitive environment.”
One major change to the course was the introduction of a co-teaching model. Jeff Hawkes ’14, manager of corporate development for Ecolab, taught alongside Baxamusa as a way to connect the academic content to industry practices used in M&A. This approach culminated with a final project in which student teams were challenged to pinpoint potential opportunities for Ecolab. The teams applied a variety of valuation methods to identify the targets that would bring the most strategic value to the organization. They pitched their findings to a team comprised of Ecolab executives and St. Thomas faculty members.
“Both the students and Ecolab benefit from this approach,” Hawkes said. “Students gain experience presenting to upper management and leave better prepared to work in the field. Ecolab wins by gaining exposure to talented people who are already aware of Ecolab’s products, technologies and services. And we get information on a set of targets that may not have been on our radar otherwise.”