With Business Enterprise program, students build education around their careers

October 11, 2019 Richard Rezler

Washtenaw Community College is turning business education upside down with the introduction of its new Business Enterprise program that can lead to a certificate, an advanced certificate, an associate degree and transfer opportunities to a four-year institution.

But, first and foremost, it’s focused on helping students advance in their career. The focus is on skill building for entry-level employment. From there, the student can build their education around what they experience on-the-job and choose to pursue.

WCC Business & Computer Technologies faculty member Donna Rochester designed the program to purposely contradict the standard approach to the pursuit of a business degree in today’s higher education structure. That approach starts with the completion of general education courses toward a degree and potentially runs all the way through an MBA program before students actually start to focus on the precise area of business that interests them.

In WCC’s Business Enterprise program, that focus starts to come into play immediately and builds from there.

“The idea is to become employed in an entry-level business position and become more employable as you choose your classes and build your skills,” Rochester said. “Once you’re in that entry-level position and see how business functions, you’ll have a better understanding of what pursuits interest you. Then you continue taking classes to position yourself to attain those interests.”

Rochester knows this approach works. She lived it. While taking marketing courses at Macomb Community College, she got her foot in the door at an advertising agency. That company not only piqued her interest in the marketing side of business, but it also reimbursed her for tuition as she simultaneously continued her education and climbed the corporate ladder.

She built a successful career as an advertising executive while earning an associate degree from Macomb to expand her skills in marketing, a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Central Michigan University to expand her management skills, and some post-master’s specialization to expand her international business skills. Each degree paralleled her advertising responsibilities.

“I would have never secured that first entry-level opportunity if I hadn’t come to the table with some marketing skills,” Rochester said. “Once I had a foot-in-the-door I was able to scan the advertising horizon, observe role models, then select my degrees to align with my growing career ambitions. It was like job shadowing and interning every day! I had accumulated eight to 10 years of professional experience on my resume by the time I earned my master’s degree. And, with no college debt!”

That inspired Rochester, who transitioned to a career in business education in 2001 and joined the WCC faculty in 2016, to build a similar career/education path. The Business Essentials program develops a foundational understanding of business operations basics that provides a framework for students to develop a plan for future study.

The program’s two certificates “nest” within the larger associate degree program. It works like this:

The first goal is for students to immediately become employable – or qualified for a promotion at a current position – by completing the 15-credit Business Enterprise Basics certificate that allow students to take a credential and proof of knowledge into a job interview. The five classes could be completed simultaneously in a single semester.


BMG 207: Business Communication

BMG 140: Introduction to Business

BMG 250: Principles of Marketing

BMG 230: Principles of Management

ACC 100: Accounting Practices for Business or ACC 111: Principles of Accounting I

Upon completion of the Business Enterprise Basics certificate, students can fine-tune their educational and career aspirations with the Business Enterprise Essentials advanced certificate. In this 16-credit program, students can take classes that follow suggested career paths in management, finance, or marketing and communications; or students can work with advisors to create a career path more suited to their individual interests.

This is the key point in the program that, Rochester says, “reduces some of that indecision and wasted time” in the educational process.

“Once you’re in that entry-level job and you start making connections and talking to people in different departments and seeing what the day in the life of an accounting manager or an advertising account manager is like, you can shape your education based on where you want to go in business,” she said. “Many students I’ve talked to were years into a degree program before they realized it’s not what they wanted to do.”



BMG 240: Human Resources Management

BMG 111: Business Law

BMG 228: Purchasing and Inventory Control

BMG 181: Intro to Supply Chain Management

BMG 273: Management Operations

BMG 293: Business Enterprise Essentials Capstone



ACC 131: QuickBooks Software

ACC 110: Payroll Accounting

BOS 184: Spreadsheet Software Applications I

BMG 228: Purchasing & Inventory Control

BMG 111: Business Law I

BMG 293: Business Enterprise Essentials Capstone



BMG 200: Relationship Skills in the Workplace

BMG 240: Human Resources Management

BMG 160: Principles of Sales

BMG 205: Creating the Customer Experience

BMG 206: Retail Principles and Practices

BMG 293: Business Enterprise Essentials Capstone

The third credential in the Business Enterprise program is the Associate in Applied Science degree. It requires 15 additional credits from a selection of business-related courses and completion of required general education courses for a total of at least 60 credits. The associate degree program also fulfills requirements of the Michigan Transfer Agreement for those students who intend to pursue a bachelor’s degree or beyond.

In Rochester’s plan, the general education requirements are taken in the final two semesters of the program – a very atypical, but very purposeful, approach.

“Other institutions want you to come in, take your general education courses, transfer if you need to and then get on that career escalator, so to speak,” Rochester said. “With the Business Enterprise program, we want students to step into an entry-level position within a business environment and then have their education run parallel with their career.”

Tags: Business, Business Enterprise Basics Certificate, Business Enterprise Essentials Advanced Certificate, Donna Rochester, ousearch_News_2019

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