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Creating Successful Futures Through Experiential Learning

An innovative collaboration with Reebok allows students to gain real-world experience through education.

Professor talking to students.

Professor Willie Reddic G’12, G’13 speaks to students in his data analytics and decision-making class. Reddic teaches undergraduate and graduate students, as well as students in the Defense Comptrollership Program.

In a data analytics and decision-making class in Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management, accounting professor Willie Reddic G’12, G’13 guides his students through a semester-long project using real consumer data to find patterns and suggest solutions to problems. For the past three years, Reddic has collaborated with two Syracuse alumni who work at Reebok—Jasmine Bellamy ’92 and Bryden Goings ’19—for this project: The company shares datasets with the students, who then analyze trends with the potential for their findings to be implemented into Reebok’s business plan. During the fall semester, students analyzed Reebok’s footwear, apparel and accessories departments.

Reddic facilitates this relationship because he believes that for students to be successful in the industry, they must experience real-world training in the classroom. “Students need a form of experiential learning,” he says. “I want to make sure that they’re overprepared for the marketplace when they leave Syracuse and the Whitman School.”

Reddic’s pedagogy has centered around hands-on learning since he spent eight years teaching at DePaul University before starting his tenure at Syracuse in 2021. “I want Whitman to be a frontrunner in this,” Reddic says. “It starts from engaging ourselves in the community.”

Students need a form of experiential learning. I want to make sure that they’re overprepared for the marketplace when they leave Syracuse and the Whitman School.

— Willie Reddic G’12, G’13

It was at Coming Back Together 2021, Syracuse’s reunion for Black and Latino alumni, that Reddic met Bellamy, vice president of merchandising, planning and allocation at Reebok, as well as leader of Reebok Community and Culture. Reddic shared his vision, Bellamy offered up the datasets, and three months later, Bellamy was back on campus consulting with Reddic’s students on their final projects.

Headshot of Jasmine Bellamy.

Jasmine Bellamy ’92 has returned to the University for the past three years of her collaboration with Reddic, as well as for the triennial Coming Back Together reunion.

When Bellamy attended Syracuse as an undergrad, she studied marketing management and was heavily involved on campus: president of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, creative director of Creations Dance Company, member of the preprofessional management society, head of The Happenings entertainment magazine. She also gained career experience as an intern in the retail industry. “Beyond academics,” she says, “the opportunity to be engaged at that level so early on was crucial.”

Photo of Jasamine Bellamy during her time at SU.

Bellamy stands on campus as an undergraduate student. She graduated in 1992 and immediately pursued a career in the retail industry.

Bellamy tells the story of interviewing for Lord & Taylor on campus in the fall of 1992. Asked to describe a time she solved a complex issue, Bellamy pulled out a copy of The Happenings and put it in the interviewer’s hand as evidence. Bellamy graduated and started her first job at Lord & Taylor two months later. “That’s what I envision these students being able to do,” she says of Reddic’s classes. “It’s not theoretical—the students will be able to share an engaging story with future employers of a real problem they solved, and that will put them ahead of the curve.”

A student talking to a class.

Graduate student Patrick Sullivan ’23, G’24 presents his data analysis to fellow classmates and the Reebok team. Sullivan has already secured a job at PricewaterhouseCoopers for once he graduates.

For Patrick Sullivan ’23, G’24, practical lessons like these are what set Syracuse graduates apart. He says he learned more from the Reebok project than how to work through data, like how to give clear, professional presentations and reports that can benefit a company’s leadership.

Sullivan studied finance and accounting as an undergraduate and says Syracuse does a great job of connecting students to industry experts. “Syracuse has not only taught me the technical skills, but also the soft skills I need to succeed,” he says.

After completing a master’s in professional accounting this spring, Sullivan will join PricewaterhouseCoopers as an auditor in their banking and capital markets practice. “In an accounting world that is increasingly dependent on shifting through large sets of data, it’s projects like this that let me practice the essential skills I need in a safe environment before I need to use them daily in the professional world,” he says.

Headshot of Bryden Goings.

“I never envisioned myself to be here, but I think if I told 18-year-old Bryden, he’d be happy,” says Bryden Goings ’19 of his experience working at Reebok and in the retail industry.

Goings, Reebok’s planning manager, has also been part of the partnership with Reddic’s classes. At the beginning of the semester, the Reebok team does a subject matter expert panel that opens the floor for the students to ask questions in preparation. “Syracuse does a great job of developing students’ ability to advocate for themselves and to be able to connect with people and network—which are critical skills,” he says.

With the students’ final presentations, he and Bellamy look for insights to take back into the business, whether it’s stores to focus on, pricing models to try or how to better advertise on social media.

The students were polished, he says. “It felt like I was in an actual boardroom listening to consultants.”

Bryden Goings on graduation day.

Goings was heavily involved on campus as an undergraduate student. In addition to being a member of the Entrepreneurship Club, a writer for 20 Watts Magazine and more, Goings was a full-time personal trainer for Recreation.

Graduating with a degree in health and exercise science from the School of Education, Goings says his major was critical-thinking intensive which, in combination with knowledge gained from taking a few business courses in the Whitman School, helped him jump into the retail world. “My experience at Syracuse granted me a robust educational foundation that has significantly helped propel my career in the industry,” Goings says.

A professor talking to a class.

“I try to mirror the real world in the way I teach,” Reddic says. “From what I’ve gathered, the students become more engaged.”

That kind of head start is exactly what Reddic is pushing for his students, as well as the importance of them leaving his class with a certification. This year, he taught the data analytics software Alteryx for the first time, and 100% of his class passed the test. “They will be ready to go day one,” he says.

Annalee Hubbs

This story was published on .

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