Engaged and active learning

Saint Michael's business administration students present their research at virtual summer conference

July 30, 2021
Faculty/staff report

In teams of two, four Saint Michael’s College business administration students along with faculty co-authors, Professor Karen Popovich and Virginie Khare (Eckerd College) virtually attended the 2021 Society for Case Research’s Summer Casewriters Conference on July 20, 2021.


Zoom “screen grab” of conference workshop. Top Row, Left: Daniel Fortier ‘21, faculty co-authors Karen Popovich and Virginie Khare (Eckerd College). Second row, left Nicole Anderson ’22.

Taryn Manna ’21 and Matthew Egan ’22 presented their critical incident and teaching note titled COVID-19 Pauses Business for World Class Brewer: Hill Farmstead Brewery, while Nicole Anderson ’22 and Daniel Fortier ’21 presented their critical incident and teaching note titled Dark Magic? COVID-19’s Impact on Small Resort Skiing in Southern Vermont.

Each team presented its spring 2021 semester research project to a group of conference attendees and then received critical feedback from session participants. The conference sessions are designed to give authors and the audience an opportunity to enhance scholarly research.

Popovich said the workshop involving the Saint Michael’s students along with her and her co-author was attended by three reviewers who were experienced and published case researchers, along a “scribe” who recorded comments and feedback, a conference chair who moderated the session, and attendees for a second presented case within the workshop session.

“All attendees were welcome to offer comments for improvement to the authors,” she said. “Participants were mostly business administration and accounting faculty from a variety of Colleges and Universities in the US and Canada.

Professor Popovich said that in her Business Strategy (BU 361) course, “cases are used as teaching and discussion tools to help students apply strategic management theories to practice.”  Each case usually includes a document called a “teaching note” to help instructors gain insights into the case — essentially a “how- to” guide or “road map” to facilitate the case’s learning outcomes.

In the culminating BU 361 semester project, groups of two students developed, researched, and wrote a short case, called a critical incident (CI), and a comprehensive theory-based teaching note (TN). Critical incidents can be based on either field work or secondary research, but they are based on factual and actual events. The quality of a teaching note is central factor because it provides the theory and application of theory to support the decision, Popovich said.

The Journal of Critical Incidents offers the following description of Critical Incidents:

Each incident tells a story about an event, an experience, a blunder, or a success.  Unlike long cases, incidents provide only essential historical details and limited situation development.  Each incident provides a focal point that stimulates readers to arrive at a course of action or analysis (Journal of Critical Incidents, https://www.ignited.global/scr/publications/jci).

When asked about where the idea for Hill Farmstead came from, Taryn Manna, a business administration and environmental studies minor from Shirley, MA, said, “While studying abroad in New Zealand, I visited a local pub and when I asked for my friends’ favorite pint, the bartender poured a brew from Hill Farmstead! I couldn’t believe that I was across the world and enjoyed a beverage made right here in Vermont!”

Manna worked with Matthew Egan, a business administration major and political science minor from Hingham, Mass.  Their critical incident researched world-famous brewer Shaun Hill and his decision to take a pause on his business during COVID-19. Their teaching note addressed the main question: “Was it a mistake to close the world-famous brewery and would Hill break his world winning streak?”

Nicole Anderson of Kittery, ME, who is double majoring at Saint Michael’s in business administration and sociology with minors in economics and art & graphic design said she loved skiing at Magic Mountain in Southern Vermont.  Her work with Dan Fortier, a double major in mathematics and data science with a business administration minor from Sandwich MA, studied Magic Mountain and its challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ski area traditionally generated a large part of its revenue from daily out-of-state visitors.  President Geoff Hathaway bought the resort in 2016 but was concerned about the decrease in out of state visitors due to COVID-19 and knew he had to find ways to promote the resort to in-state skiers. The team teaching note included an internal and external analysis (i.e. SWOT) of the resort and assessed different pricing strategies.


Zoom “screen grab” of conference workshop. Top Row, Matt Egan ’22, co-authors Karen Popovich & Virginie Khare (Eckerd College). Taryn Manna is in the second row, far right.

Faculty attendees remarked on the achievements of students’ high-quality work.  Said Popovich: “It is not easy to receive critical feedback and I was impressed with how our students represented themselves, their work, and Saint Michael’s. Both cases received substantial positive feedback that will fuel forward momentum to take the work to the next step: publication review for consideration in the Journal of Critical Incidents.”

She said one faculty member told the students after their presentation: “You have demonstrated what it means to not only be engaged and active learners, but you are paying it forward to the students that are to come!”  Another faculty response from the session was: “There is so much potential in your work!  I was excited as I was reading the work and I would use it in my classes!”

Popovich said her next step with the students will be to discuss the feedback from the faculty reviewers, implement needed changes, and then submit to the review process at the Journal of Critical Incidents. “I am excited to work with the students to develop their work,” she said. “Case research is a long road, but I’m so excited to be on this journey with our students. Each student will be able to include the research and conference presentation on his or her resume. The experience really sets our students apart as they develop their passion for lifelong learning.  Not every new college graduate will have research that has been professionally presented and reviewed on their resumes.”

The professor further noted that both Manna and Anderson Nicole and were recently inducted to Sigma Beta Delta, international honor society in business, management and administration.

The Society for Case Research (SCR), founded in 1978, facilitates the exchange of ideas leading to the improvement of case research, writing, and teaching; assists in the publication of written cases or case research and other scholarly work; and provides recognition for excellence in case research, writing and teaching.

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