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M.A. IN FOOD STUDIES STUDENTS PRODUCE NEW GINGER WHISKEY

product lineNote: This story appears in the Chatham University Spring 2015 Recorder alumni magazine. All photos by John Altdorfer.

Elizabeth Overholt was born in 1818. She was the fifth child of Abraham Overholt, owner of a prosperous whiskey distillery in Westmoreland County, PA. Romance did not seem to be in the cards for Elizabeth, but at 28, she fell in love and conceived a child with a man called John who worked in her father’s mill. A biographer writes: “It was a common surmise in the community at the time that Elizabeth’s parents would have preferred a more sedate and better established suitor than the impetuous, red-headed scion of the Celts and Burgundians, but as there was no withstanding her calm inflexibility, the wedding took place at the homestead on October 9th, 1847.”[1] Their second child was the industrialist, financier, and art patron Henry Clay Frick.

Three miles from the Frick Fine Arts Building and almost 200 years after Elizabeth’s birth, five M.A. in Food Studies students from the Falk School of Sustainability are gathered around a table at Wigle Whiskey, a local distillery that also offers on-site retail and tasting. With them is Wigle co-owner and Chatham adjunct faculty member, Meredith Grelli. Grelli teaches an intensive two-semester new product development course, and students have been working since the fall to develop—from ideation to market—a ginger whiskey that they plan to release around Valentine’s Day 2016. Why then? Because marketing will be tied to the love story of red-haired John (“ginger”) and distillery daughter Elizabeth (“whiskey”). The decision to pair whiskey and ginger was made before the team made the John and Elizabeth connection, but savvy marketers tell stories, and these are savvy marketers.

organic grains

The class finishes up a conference call about sourcing ingredients with a food scientist from Beam Suntory, maker of Jim Beam. Meredith asks the group—Maureen Gullen, Sam Mass, Erica Rabbin, Katie Walker, and Emily Gallivan—for their thoughts.

“The quality of ginger’s going to be really important,” says one. They had planned to source ginger from the greenhouse at the Frick Conservatory, but now they plan to grow it at Eden Hall. Grelli asks how they would deal with the lack of consistency given that they don’t know that the ginger will come from the same supplier.

The students have done their research and answer with confidence. “Consumers want consistency, but with an artisanal supplier, they’re willing to accept variation and even see it as a positive,” says Gullen.

“I think it adds to the consumer experience,” agrees Mass. “People who are into it like talking about the different deep cuts. It creates a culture and discourse that would never exist in a large company.”

The new product development course began to take shape when Grelli was approached by Food Studies Program Director Alice Julier, Ph.D, about taking on interns. “The Food Studies program sounded amazing, like a program I would want to be in,” says Grelli. “There are immense opportunities to bring education into the business of food, especially exposing students to new product development. I wanted the students to experience the whole process, starting with creating concepts, testing with focus groups, all the way through promotion,” she says. “We’re taking the path you’d take in a big food company, and jerry-rigging it for a small shop.”

Meredith2

Take a look at their first assignment, from last September: 1) visit a grocery store, liquor store, restaurant or bar, 2) identify two innovations, 3) think about what makes them “interesting, successful or flops”, and 4) create a 10 minute PowerPoint presentation on their findings. Two things jump out: The course is exceptionally thoughtful on one hand and participatory on the other. In fact, the degree to which it interpolates theory, research, and hands-on practice is extraordinary, especially considering the truncated time frame. Of course, the truncated time frame makes it an even better idea to assign such readings as “Making Group Brainstorming More Effective: Recommendations from an Associative Memory Perspective.” Everything fits together.

“We’re working together in a group in such a way that it functions like a business. Every week at least one of us presented something to the others,” says Walker. She and Gullen are co-leading production and consumer testing. Rabbin leads recipe development. Mass heads design and labeling, Gallivin is in charge of PR and planning the launch. Grelli has arranged an impressive array of speakers and visits, from a tour of the HJ Heinz Innovation Center from the director of research and development to a meeting with a Pennsylvania ginger farmer to a visit with a food journalist about how to build relationships with reporters. She calls it the new product class she wishes she had in business school.

production

The first Food Studies-Wigle new product development course was held last year, when eight students worked with Grelli to develop Pennsylvania’s first apple whiskey. They conducted a rigorous series of consumer research, worked with local grain growers, apple growers, and the Wigle production team to produce one of Wigle’s most successful releases of the year. In a textbook example of merging business and sustainability, the students made the decision that in terms of cost and marketing, it was more important that the apples be local than organic. Wigle Wayward, as the whiskey is called, is made from five kinds of apples from Soergel’s orchards in the North Hills. “The first year we started I thought “these are not business students, so I’m going to go business-lite,” laughs Grelli, who also co-facilitates the MyBusiness Startup program run by Chatham’s Center for Women and Entrepreneurship.“ But they just wanted more! So I was like, ‘all right’! We’re doing it!”

“I think Chatham is the best place to deliver this kind of program,” she continues. “It’s place-based and focused on community and entrepreneurship,” says Grelli.   “We’re thinking about how to further our partnership, perhaps collaborating on a series of seasonals. Next year’s class might do spring or summer whiskey, for example.”

“I feel like no matter what we do after this there will be an aspect of this class that will help us,” says Mass.

[1] “Henry Clay Frick the Man” by George Harvey, published 1928

CWE 10TH ANNIVERSARY: Q AND A WITH REBECCA HARRIS

harris 1Rebecca Harris is the Executive Director of the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Chatham University. 2015 marks the Center’s 10th anniversary.

What changes have you noticed in the entrepreneurial climate for women?

In Pittsburgh, we’ve noticed more women starting businesses, especially younger women, and an increase in the diversity of industries. At the same time, there has been an incredible increase of support for these businesses within the Center and the Chatham community as well as in the greater Pittsburgh region. And we’ve noticed a shift from need-based entrepreneurs to desire-based entrepreneurs, as pressures from the recession decrease.

Are there any Pittsburgh-based entrepreneurs or start-ups that you think have been particularly successful?

We’ve worked with many exceptional women, some of whom launched their businesses with our programs ten years ago and have now circled back to mentor other members. Most of the women who take our entrepreneurial training programs have been referred by a client of the Center, which is a testament to the success of the businesses who have participated in our offerings.

What would you say are the biggest changes the CWE has gone through in the past 10 years?

Over the past 10 years, the Center has developed a continuum of services, from start-up programs like our proprietary MyBusiness Startup to those that allow us to work with more established businesses, such as MyBusiness Growth and MyBoard. We’re bringing in a wider variety of local and national speakers, offering more events, and spending more time in the community, doing presentations and workshops.  Finally, we have formed strong connections with other universities, entrepreneurial support organizations in Pittsburgh, and a wide variety of departments at Chatham University.

What Center accomplishments are you most proud of?

Over the past two years, we’ve developed a customized curriculum specifically for women in MyBusiness Startup and MyBusiness Growth.  We’re extremely proud of the success that we’ve had developing our own programming, including the MyConsulting Corner program, which combines a field-study experience for MBA students with hands-on assistance for women business owners in the community. Prior to that, the Center began one of Pittsburgh’s first morning networking events for women with our Women Business Leaders Breakfast Series and we’re proud to have such a successful program still happening today. This year we also celebrate ten years of our annual Think Big Forum.

What’s on the horizon for the CWE?

We look forward to continuing to support women as part of the Women’s Institute, as they start and grow their businesses through our programs, mentoring and networking opportunities, and we’re excited to continue working with the local entrepreneurial ecosystem to provide opportunities for our members.

 

FROM PRESIDENT BARAZZONE: SWEET BRIAR COLLEGE

On February 28, 2015 the Board of Trustees of Sweet Briar College, a small women’s liberal arts college in Virginia, announced that the College would be closing this summer because of the “insurmountable financial challenges” resulting from the dwindling number of women interested in single-sex education, pressures on small liberal arts colleges and the challenge of recruiting students to more rural settings.  On behalf of the Chatham community, I write to reflect sadness for the loss of this fine college from the ranks of US higher education, and to express our sympathy to the Sweet Briar community (students, faculty, staff and alumnae) for their loss.

Except for the last factor cited by Sweet Briar’s Board, Chatham has wrestled with many of the same challenges that led Sweet Briar to close its doors (unlike Sweet Briar, Chatham is fortunate to be situated in a welcoming and supportive major metropolitan area).  And though we understand and appreciate that every higher education institution’s situation is different, that what works in one institution may or may not work in another, our own recent experiences suggest that our survival rests on more than our urban setting.

Foremost among them are Chatham’s core excellence, our commitment to the growth of the individual (which after all was the original meaning of ending the discrimination which denied access for women to higher education), and our continuing commitment to change and innovation.  The former dates back to our founding, while the latter dates back to the early ’90’s when we diversified our academic profile, adding to our undergraduate liberal arts program with applied graduate programs.

Without the continuing commitment to change and innovation, we would not be where we are today.  It allowed us to face down tough challenges such as the ’08 financial crash with the attendant fiscal constraints in which we all participated.  It inspired us to take the opportunity given to us by the Eden Hall and Falk Foundations and reposition the institution and become a national leader in the vitally important field of sustainability.  And when we could no longer ignore the risks of single gender education, it led us to become coeducational at the undergraduate level (which will be realized next fall) while working to preserve the women’s mission with the formation of the Women’s Institute.

That same spirit of change and innovation has been much in evidence over the past year.  We have reorganized the university to provide access to graduate programs upon admission to undergraduate education and with the revision have also facilitated transfer.  And thanks to the great leadership of Dr. Bill Lenz, Dr. Jenna Templeton and many others, the faculty has created in only one semester the outline for a curriculum revision that, along with the Chatham Plan (the new professional preparation program for undergraduates starting in fall 2015), addresses many of the current public concerns about liberal arts while nonetheless still ensuring they underpin all majors.

Although it is still early, the results from our recent changes and innovation are encouraging.  At this time the deposited first time first year class is nearly double that of last year with no significant rise in discount rate. Graduate and other programs are also up.

All of the encouraging news, however, is tempered by our caution about the future and our appreciation of the need to press ahead with attempts to strengthen Chatham in every way possible – innovation when needed, programmatic and enrollment growth, help with recruitment and fundraising to complete our $100 million capital campaign – to preserve and advance this exceptional institution.  Sweet Briar, just to bring the point into sharper focus, had even at the end more endowment ($94 million) than our scrappy college has (approximately $80 million, $15 million of which was only recently given by the Falk Foundation).

In reflecting on the news from Sweet Briar and on all that we have accomplished in recent years, I would like to thank all of you – Chatham’s faculty, administration, staff, alumnae/i and students – for your commitment to Chatham and your commitment to the continuous innovations and change which have permitted us to advance thus far.

I express my gratitude for the caring, willingness, and openness with which we all go into our future as proud members of the Chatham community.  It has required, and will require in the future, the energies and committed work of each of us to realize our mission.

Sincerely,

Esther B.

STARBUCKS CO-FOUNDER ADDRESSES STUDENTS AT BUSINESS MIXER

“Starbucks was not started by a guy in a nice suit with gray hair,” says the man in the nice suit with gray hair. This is Zev Siegl, and, to be fair, it’s been a couple years since he and two friends started Starbucks in 1970. Since then, the success of Starbucks may be best encapsulated in a 1998 headline from the satirical newspaper The Onion: “New Starbucks Opens In Restroom Of Existing Starbucks.” On January 22, Siegl shared some thoughts on entrepreneurship with Chatham students.

A few highlights:

Pick the right type of business
“We had an unfair advantage,” says Siegl. “Caffeine makes for a lot of repeat customers.” Until 1983, Starbucks – which started as a retail shop selling ground coffee, equipment and spices – gave away cups of coffee in the stores. “There were no gourmet coffee stores in Seattle in 1970,” he says. “We wanted to build affection for coffee that’s thoughtfully produced.”

Starbucks gradually expanded into roasting their own beans, then making beverages. The first coffee bar opened in 1983. “Now we were in three businesses,” says Siegl. “Roasting, retailing, and selling beverages.”

Grow slowly.
“The idea is anathema these days, because of the window of opportunity,” Siegl admits. “But we grew slowly. After ten years, we had six stores. Right now, there are 12,000 in the U.S. alone.” Siegl also mentioned that growing slowly allowed them to manage their costs too, citing postponing purchases until the business is profitable as one way to reduce expenses.

Consider alternate sources of funding.
“There’s a tendency for the first-time entrepreneur to get bogged down in the business plan. You need to focus on the Excel spreadsheet – the financial forecast,” says Siegl. “You’ll probably be stunned by how much money you need. But you can take advantage of grants and other government programs, get customers to prepay before opening day, do trades and exchanges of services or equipment, or just do it yourself.”

Find a mentor.
“Find a mentor who really has the keys to the kingdom and say ‘let’s go have dinner,’” says Siegl, who cites Alfred Peet of Peet’s Coffee & Tea as his mentor.

Be strategic about product development.
In the late 80’s, Starbucks introduced Frappucinos to fulfill a marketing need. People who came in for their morning coffee now had a reason to come back in the afternoon.

Add value.
“Get involved with a social good,” Siegel says. “Collect money from customers for organizations doing good in the community. Think of it as an opportunity to give back.”

CAMPUS COMMUNITY PROFILE: RACHEL CHUNG, PH.D.

Chung-1024x683

Title: Director of Business Programs

Before joining Chatham in 2013, while at Carlow University, Dr. Chung was featured on a BBC World News story about Twins Days Festival, the world’s largest gathering for twins and multiples. At the festival, Dr. Chung and her team gathered data from more than 200 pairs of twins, seeking to determine whether there was a genetic basis for online behavior. Originally from Taiwan, Dr. Chung now lives in the North Hills. Her personal interests include cooking and hunting for dinosaurs with her son Connor.

What do you think about the integration of graduate and undergraduate business programs?

I should start by saying that our programs have always been administratively integrated. Now the academics will be integrated too. I think there will be some very positive changes. Take our Marketing faculty, for example. They used to teach only undergraduates, and our grad students were taught by professionals working in the field. But having a professor teach the graduate class means that he or she can connect the dots for the students. The professors keep track of industry trends, because it’s their research area and they’re immersed in it. Chatham’s MBA is an academics program, and we need to have Ph.D.s there. And it’s good for them, too. It means that they don’t have to teach so many classes outside their field of expertise. If you’re enrolled in a class, you really want the instructor to keep track of what’s changing in the field, and no one can keep track of everything that’s going on in six different fields. It’s just not possible. We’re also excited about increased opportunities for interaction between our graduate and undergraduate students.

Is there anything in place to promote that interaction?

Yes, and we’re working on developing more. For example, we used to hold separate mixers for undergraduate and graduate students. Now we’re combining them, and holding the mixer from 4:30pm, when most undergraduates are likely to be ending classes, to 6:30pm, close to when many graduate students begin their classes. I’d say it’s been very successful.

We’re also working with Sean McGreevey (Assistant Dean for Career Development) on opportunities to have some graduate-undergraduate mentoring. The mixers are a great mechanism for helping mentoring to happen. Students don’t have to coordinate their schedules, they can say “I’ll just meet you at the mixer!”

For updates about Business programs, check out the Chatham MBA blog »

FROM PRESIDENT BARAZZONE: A CALL FOR REFLECTION

ThinkstockPhotos-513393365Good morning,

I am writing to ask that we join as a community on whatever occasions we can, between now and January 20, the day after the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day observances, to focus on the meaning of civil discourse and freedom of speech. This request is triggered by the proximity of the massacres in France, both at the headquarters of the magazine “Charlie Hebdo” and at the Jewish grocery store, to the US commemoration of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. a great exemplar of non-violent resistance. In both the attack on the Hebdo magazine and the murder of Dr. King, racial and religious bigotry were involved. But that fact alone is not what links these events to us as a university and compels an institutional response.

As a university, we have, I believe, a special responsibility to speak any time we encounter this constellation of suppression of expression and bigotry. We do not teach only subjects and content. We also must model and foster the untrammeled intellectual and personal exploration of ideas and values in an environment of civility and respect for others’ views, regardless of how much they may conflict with our own. While it is understandable that some of the cartoons may have been offensive, the ability to engage in debate and disagreement, and to express one’s views without fear of death, is vital to a civil society and our essential humanity. The bracketed events of the murders of staff of “Charlie Hebdo”–and of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day–bring home once again the deep moral and intellectual importance of the pursuit of learning and free expression at institutions of learning everywhere. The raised pens of the French–the symbol of both learning and expression–make the link perfectly between journalism and the academy.

Just as so many leaders of different nations, and representatives of different religions and political parties joined arms in Paris this weekend to show solidarity against bigoted extremism, so too must we. By pausing, thinking, and discussing these events and our reactions to them we strengthen ourselves as the diverse learning community that we are to display the opposite values. I hope we will all take every opportunity to do this.

I have asked that flags be lowered until next Tuesday so that we are reminded of the meaning to our own liberties and humanity of such tragedies and events everywhere they occur. And equally important, we lower the flag in respect, commemoration, and to remind ourselves to listen to our own “better angels” as we go about the frequently conflictual processes of learning. Perhaps this is what we really ought to mean by “higher” education.

Sincerely,

Esther B.

CAMPUS COMMUNITY PROFILE: JEAN-JACQUES SENE, PH.D.

Sene-1024x683

Associate Professor of History & Cultural Studies;
Program Coordinator, Global Focus

How do you say his name? “Zhahn Zhahk Senn”

With Chatham since: 2007

Hometown: Dakar, Senegal

Pittsburgh home: Squirrel Hill

Languages spoken: “Let’s just say five [laughs]: French, English, Spanish, Wolof, and Creole Portuguese. Everybody, literally, is multilingual where I come from.” Continue reading

ALUMNA PROFILE: AAFKE LONEY, MBA ’11

Aafke Loney didn’t plan for her family’s lifelong involvement in hockey to blend seamlessly with her passion for business; it just happened that way. Aafke, who earned her MBA from Chatham in 2011, along with her husband Troy Loney, are the proud co-owners of the Youngstown Phantoms (youngstownphantoms.com) of the United States Hockey League.  This acquisition marries the couple’s backgrounds, and Aafke has big plans for developing not only the Phantom’s players – but also the team’s fans and sponsors – so that “everyone invested receives a complete experience, a value in supporting the team.”

The Phantoms have enjoyed much recent success: five of the team’s alumni have signed NHL contracts, an additional three players were drafted in the 2014 NHL draft and, this year, one of their players is projected to be a top 10 pick in the 2015 NHL draft. Aafke’s latest venture is a Girl’s Hockey Weekend skills competition and symposium on Saturday, Oct. 11 at the Covelli Centre in Youngstown, OH. “We are excited to support the 2014 USA Girl’s Hockey Weekend October 10-12 through providing this opportunity for girl’s youth hockey in Pennsylvania and Ohio,” says Aafke. Chatham University Women’s Ice Hockey coaches, captains and players will present a College Athletics Q & A followed by on-ice skills development during the event.

Continue reading

CAMPUS COMMUNITY PROFILE: CHRIS MUSICK, M.S.

Musick-1024x683Title: Assistant Vice President for International Affairs
Hometown: Yorktown, Indiana
Pittsburgh neighborhood: I’m currently deciding between Squirrel Hill and Shadyside. I like being able to walk places, and I don’t have a car in town. I signed up for the Bike to Work program, and I have the bicycle that I bought off my brother when I was in 8th grade for $40 and a large pizza. The bike has been refurbished throughout the years that I’ve been riding, but it’s a cherished piece of my childhood.

What are your goals for International Affairs?
For one, I’m looking forward to helping to implement the Chatham semester, which is like a reverse study abroad program. We want it to be a destination for students around the world who want to study in America for a semester or a year. To encourage this, we’re becoming more flexible with our ESL programs – they’ll now be 7-week sessions and start at different points during the years, to help accommodate other countries’ academic calendars. Another way that we’ll internationalize our community is through activities, speakers, presenters, and curriculum development. And, of course, we’ll be pursuing strategic relationships around the globe.

How do you decide which relationships to pursue?
We’re very interested in developing relationships that enhance our understanding of what we’re able to do here and take advantage of opportunities to learn even more. For example, Chatham has a robust sustainability program, and we’re also global in outlook. There’s a lot we can learn from studying sustainability in different biomes, like the arctic, the desert, and the tropics. What are the challenges of creating sustainable practices in different environmental zones? How do you grow crops in Norway? We’re looking to partner with institutions where we can learn from them, and they from us.

We’re also interested in partnering with institutions where there are layers of academic overlap that can help us create deeper relationships with the community and within our academic programs. For example, we might have a student group of healthcare workers visit a community to investigate what might be behind the learning disorders that affect a large number of local children. Say they link it to cooking stoves inside the house leaking carbon dioxide. Then we could have interior design students going down and designing a new stove that uses local resources and can be built efficiently and at low cost that doesn’t emit carbon dioxide. And of course, we want to develop relationships with universities that mirror what we’re doing to a certain extent, so that if students study abroad, they’re still able to graduate on time.

Chatham has so many points of pride, and this time of transition fosters a real outward-lookingness. There’s a lot of potential to moving into the international arena in a way that we haven’t been able to do before.

A NIGHT OUT WITH THE WOMEN OF CITY COUNCIL

“It wasn’t my plan to run,” Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Deborah Gross told the roomful of women following the casual wine and cheese networking reception. “It came as a surprise when the councilman retired. I was holding the phone with one hand and writing a list of all the people I knew who could run, 150 or so, with the other. And then I thought I want to be the one to do this.

On October 22, the women of Pittsburgh City Council – Councilwoman Gross, Councilwoman Darlene M. Harris, Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith, and Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak – spoke candidly about their experiences running for office and serving as councilmembers at A Night Out with the Women of City Council, an event sponsored by the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics.

“Sometimes being on City Council is like being in the CIA. You can prevent bad things from happening without anyone knowing.”
– Councilwoman Darlene Harris

“During my run, I had the feeling that I was an outsider,” said Rudiak. “No one was tapping me on the shoulder and telling me that I should run. The hardest part was knowing people my whole life and seeing them not support me because they didn’t think I could win.”

The councilwomen’s remarks were followed by a question and answer session, during which one woman asked: Is it time for us as women to think about a different kind of political party?

“I struggle with that, as a Democrat,” said Rudiak. “Right now, I think there’s an unprecedented effort to get new people to run in our party. It is really energized. Sometimes working within the system provides the best opportunities for change.”

“There will always be someone to manipulate you, no matter what party you’re associated with,” agreed Kail-Smith. “Do what it takes to work within your community.”

The councilwomen also offered advice for women who were considering entering politics, much of which centered on fortitude: Keep on moving and doing what you think is right. You need to be in a place where you’re okay with people not liking you, and you need to keep going anyway. They also encouraged interested attendees to register for Ready to Run™ Pittsburgh, a day of bipartisan political training to encourage women to run for government leadership positions held at Chatham on January 31, 2015.

The Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics (PCWP) at Chatham University is a non–partisan center devoted to fostering women’s public leadership through education, empowerment, and action.