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Sarah Madey, '09

Sarah Madey

As Sarah Madey '09 learned the ropes of her new position at Maguire Associates, a research-based consulting firm in Boston focusing on higher education, she realized that one of her business courses had prepared her especially well for aspects of her job as director of client relationship management.

"Integrated Product Development (IDP) really gave me a taste for what was to come after graduation," says Madey. "It was by far my most challenging and favorite course at UVM because it really forced you to be creative, but also self-motivated to meet deadlines."

The invitation-only course requires teams of four students to consult with business leaders at local companies where they present a product idea that could potentially make it to market. Most don't, but the process of brainstorming, choosing a product, designing it, and ultimately presenting it to a board has proven a valuable experience for students. Madey says her experience developing a national marketing campaign for Orage, an innovative ski gear company, gave her needed experience prior to graduation.

Atypical class has employee manual instead of syllabus; bosses instead of professors

The business-like structure of the course was designed by Larry Shirland, longtime business professor and interim dean of the college. He co-teaches the course with Jerry Manock, a mechanical engineer and product design expert and Peter Morris, owner of Chrysalis Design Group.

"I think we complement each other by bringing different skills to the course," says Shirland. "We intentionally keep the course somewhat vague because we don't want to steer students in one direction and stifle their creativity."

The course format worked for Madey: "Being innovative is important in my job because it's what gives you an edge on the competition," she says. "IDP allowed me to make some mistakes and learn from them so I didn't have to make them when I started working."