Partnership Highlight: United Prairie Bank and the College of Business

Community collaboration provides real-world learning experiences for College of Business Students

December 22, 2020 |

Increasing demand for students with real-world experiences

As students graduate into a dynamic job market, there is a growing demand for them to have real-world, workplace experiences in combination with their classroom studies. Minnesota State University, Mankato’s College of Business in partnership with United Prairie Bank have succeeded in bridging the gap between the real-world and the classroom through establishing the United Prairie Bank Integrated Business Experience (IBE). For the past 8 years, the IBE has served as a prime example of a real-world, entrepreneurial learning experience.

What is the Integrated Business Experience (IBE)?

The IBE combines a suite of required courses for College of Business students into a semester long program, in which students work together to apply their knowledge in planning, launching, and operating an actual business. In participating in the program, students are able to get a head start on their business careers while gaining the leadership skills, entrepreneurial mindset, and hands-on experience that employers look for in new hires.

The semester begins with students being divided into companies of 15-20 students who are tasked with establishing a product or service for sale and developing business, marketing, and financial plans. Each company pitches their idea to a team of loan officers from United Prairie Bank in hopes to secure financing for their venture. Following loan approval, students spend the remainder of the semester marketing and selling their products. Each company selects a local charity of their choice that will receive the proceeds of their sales throughout the semester. Companies are also encouraged to volunteer, both in person and virtually. Since its fruition in 2012, the IBE has become a signature program in the College of Business, with student companies having donated more than $84,000 to local charities.

Real-World Problems Leading to Innovative solutions

The value of the IBE program has not gone unnoticed by Minnesota State Mankato students. Paige Nixt, a Junior in the College of Business who served as Social Media Manager for the company Do You shared, “The IBE was a great opportunity for me to step out of my comfort zone. It’s a great opportunity for you to put skills on your LinkedIn [profile], resume, and talk to employers about your real-world experience.” Students from all majors have taken advantage of the IBE program as a way to obtain valuable experiences and develop a standout resume when applying for internships and jobs.

The COVID-19 pandemic has served as an increasingly apparent reminder of the kind of obstacles that many will have to face when entering the workforce. Despite the semester shifting online, 2020 IBE companies pressed on, adjusting their sales strategy to online and leaning into digital marketing efforts. “There were a lot of question marks, and I think the students realized that themselves. They had a really big hurdle that other groups hadn’t faced”, shared Jamie Germscheid, Business Banker and Assistant Vice President at United Prairie Bank. “That’s just part of that real-world experience- this is what everybody is dealing with, what every business is dealing with. They had to come up with a solution to it as well.” Each company chose to approach selling during the pandemic in a different way- some online, some in a hybrid format- but each has found success.

Building campus-community connections

The partnership between the College of Business and United Prairie Bank has created a synergy that has led to the success of the IBE program in the eyes of the students and in the Greater Mankato Area. Enrollments for the IBE program continue to increase each year, with students outside of the College of Business becoming increasingly interested in the program. In the year of 2020, the IBE program has demonstrated the value of community connection and resilience of Minnesota State Mankato students who are prepared for the changing workforce landscape.