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Integrative Business Experience | University News

UCM’s Integrative Business Experience Celebrates 100th Company

By Jeff Murphy, December 7, 2023


Jackie Brandhorst, left, associate professor of management and director of the Integrative Business Experience (IBE) program at the University of Central Missouri, and Keira Solon, right, assistant professor of management, honor Professor Emerita Mary McCord, who helped pioneer the IBE program. The plaque she received will be displayed in a room of the Dockery Building honoring McCord's longtime support for IBE, including recent upgrades she made possible to a room that will be used by IBE and other students in the Harmon College of Business and Professional Studies. 

WARRENSBURG, MO – Highlighting a program that fosters a thriving entrepreneurial and philanthropic spirit among University of Central Missouri students, the Harmon College of Business and Professional Studies (HCBPS) on Dec. 1 hosted the Integrative Business Experience 100 Company Celebration. Activities that took place in the Elliott Student Union honored IBE’s milestone while recognizing the companies’ contributions of nearly half a million dollars to community nonprofit organizations, all made possible by products created and sold by students.

The IBE celebration brought together participants from two fall 2023 student-led companies, Lidz4Kidz and BurgCrew, who discussed their involvement in the program, and an audience that consisted mostly of individuals who have either participated directly in IBE or offered their support. Among these individuals were past and present HCBPS faculty members and former IBE students, the university’s Board of Governors, various campus leaders, as well as representatives of area businesses and non-profit organizations which have collaborated with the student program. A number of these campus and community stakeholders also received special awards for their support of the program.

Jackie Brandhorst, associate professor of management and director of IBE, introduced UCM President Roger Best as one of the individuals who have played a pivotal role in the program. When IBE was launched in 2004, he served as a faculty member and chair of  the Department of Economics and Finance. In his remarks, Best called IBE “one of our premier programs” and a “shining example of the type of education we provide right here at the University of Central Missouri.”

IBE is a 12-credit-hour academic program that includes three required core courses in Finance, Marketing and Management. Students take these courses their junior year, as well as the practicum which allows them to apply what they learned from these classes.

As part of the practicum experience, Best said students work in teams to start their own companies. Each company is required to create a product to sell and must secure a small loan from a lending institution (Equity Bank) for start-up capital. Additionally, they collaborate with a nonprofit organization in which members of the student-run business offer their support through community service hours and a donation of their net proceeds at the conclusion of the program.

Best said during the past 19 years IBE companies have raised a combined $800,000 in gross revenue. Of this amount, nearly $450,000 in net proceeds have been donated to support charitable organizations that have collaborated with the student-led companies. Students also committed about 30,000 service hours to those non-profit organizations.

“Now, that fits in very well, if you think about the value system of the University of Central Missouri and our values which you can find on our website, and around campus – things like learning, excellence, opportunity, community, and also service,” Best said. “So five of the six values are represented right there, just because of IBE and the impact that it has on students, our community and each other.”

Throughout IBE’s history, student companies have created, produced and sold products ranging from the still popular Mo the Mule bobblehead, created by the first student-run company and patterned after the university’s cartoon mascot, to commemorative cups, blankets, USB thumb drives, to name just a few. They have worked with manufacturers in the United States and abroad to produce these items.

Students representing Lidz4Kidz and BurgCrew gave separate presentations about their products and the nonprofit organizations with which they collaborated during fall semester. Lidz4Kidz created a trucker hat that helped generate $3,056 for Youth Excited About Sports in Warrensburg, in addition to providing 225 service hours. O.J. Rhone, a member of the YES board, accepted a check from company members following their remarks. Two themed crewneck sweatshirts were created and sold by BurgCrew providing $5,500 in net proceeds to benefit Old Drum Animal Shelter, and 207 service hours. Cassie Montgomery, adoption, transport and volunteer coordinator accepted the gift.

In addition to current students’ participation in the IBE 100 Company Celebration, the audience also heard from one of the program’s alumni, Emily Westermier, assistant director of the LearningForce at State Fair Community College in Sedalia. She graduated from UCM in 2014 with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration having served in IBE during the fall 2012 semester. She also earned a Master of Science in Ethical and Strategic Leadership from UCM in 2018.

“When I came to tour UCM…I sat down in a classroom with Matt Houseworth (HCBPS faculty member), where he told me everything that UCM Business (HCBPS) had to offer, including the IBE program. From that moment, I was absolutely hooked. That’s what I wanted to do. That sounded amazing to me,” she said. “I have a bit of entrepreneurial spirit in me and I thought this was the perfect alignment.”

Westermier spoke about how she leveraged what she learned in IBE to benefit her in the professional field. Her young career includes previous service in Springfield for Mueller Transportation, Inc., a subsidiary of Paul Mueller Company, and her current role at State Fair, where she serves with a team dedicated to workforce training. Among many benefits of IBE, Westermier cited the “4 Ps of Marketing” (product, price, place, and promotion) among the most important concepts she took away from the program, which she has used during her professional career. She also noted the value of soft skills related to problem solving, conflict resolution, communication, and time and task management, which she began to develop as an IBE student. This is in addition to learning valuable lessons about leadership.

“You don’t have to be the manager or person in charge to be the leader,” Westermier said. “I’m not saying, don’t aspire to manage if that’s what you want, but recognize that it may be a journey that may take a little longer than you might think. True leadership is about making a positive impact, inspiring others, driving change, and being a good example regardless of your title or authority.”

She added through their IBE experience, students learn that “leading sometimes can also mean maybe not getting what you want but doing what’s best for the sake and mission of the program.”

Several individuals who were in the audience were recognized for their support of IBE. Among them were Professor Emeritus Larry Michaelsen, who founded the program with Professor Emerita Mary McCord in 2004. It was noted that a special plaque honoring McCord will be placed in Room 107 of the Dockery Building, which is being updated as a space for use by IBE and for other purposes as the result of a gift by the longtime IBE program leader.

Other individuals who were recognized include George Wilson, former dean of HCBPS; Larry Haase, HCBPS professor emeritus; and Amanda Bradbury and Tyler Hirlinger, HCBPS faculty members who work with Brandhorst to teach IBE core program courses. Community supporters who were recognized through plaque presentations were Barry and Diane Whitworth, Kelly Gilbert, Dana Cass, Greg Hall, and Sue Hook.

Individuals who want to know more about IBE are encouraged to visit the program website.


A table featuring a variety of products created and sold by IBE student companies over the past 19 years, along with plaques honoring program supporters, captured the audience's attention during the IBE 100th Company Celebration.



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