Business Learning Community creates network of support for new undergraduate students

Starting a college career is exciting, liberating … and a bit intimidating. Mixed in with thousands of students from dozens of different states and countries, incoming students can become quickly overwhelmed. That is, until they become part of the Learning Community in Wayne State’s School of Business Administration.

Welcoming its first thousand students

Nearly 1,000 undergraduate students have benefitted from SBA’s Business Learning Community, incorporated into the Introduction to Business class (BA 2020), since its introduction in 2012. Though course lectures focused on orienting students to critical concepts in business management, information systems, marketing, ethics and social responsibility, the developers of the Business Learning Community designed it to provide new undergraduate students an opportunity to transition to university life with the safety net of supportive faculty and outstanding peer mentors.

"No matter how prepared you feel academically, this is a new world," said Margaret Smoller, SBA interim associate dean for academic and financial affairs and an enthusiastic supporter of the school’s learning community. "Through BA 2020, students are able to see their entire academic path. It’s imperative to get this clear guide of what they’re supposed to be doing in any given semester, as it lays the foundation for classes and what it is to be a business student."

Mentoring and Engaging

Leading the effort of BA 2020 in the classroom is Sheri Perelli, a senior lecturer in the Department of Management and Information Systems.  With the program since its introduction, Perelli energizes her students about business through her lectures and continually recruits committed and academically successful peer mentors to work with student cohorts, as well as inviting high-profile professionals to speak to the classes.

"We emphasize experiential learning approaches that engage students not only with course material but one another and with business professionals who can inspire and influence them," Perelli said. "Each semester, students meet and interact with a variety of prominent professionals who deliver real-world interpretations of current business issues, trends, challenges and opportunities – and underscore the importance of professional networking, teamwork and leadership. Near future plans include a service learning component to introduce social entrepreneurship, corporate social responsibility and community service."

Advancing each student’s academic success and professional development in the business school, while also developing a campus connection to the greater WSU community, are peer mentors who meet with cohorts of 15-20 students for 10 hours each week. During these sessions, students work on content activities and exercises that build skills and expose them to business school resources, student organizations and school-wide events.

"My learning community kept me motivated to strive for the top …"

Each term Perelli asks students to reflect on their experience in the Business Learning Community. One recent response captures the essence of the impact the experience can have:

"My learning community kept me motivated to strive for the top," one student said. "I had a hard time adjusting to the college life of Wayne State, but with the help of my mentor (and others) I was able to pull it together. I truly appreciate them with all my heart, without them my freshman year may have been my last … I am just grateful to everyone who helped me on my way."

More on the Business Learning Community

The WSU Business Learning Community seeks to help students develop in four key areas:

  • Building a sense of community and deepen each student’s knowledge about the School of Business Administration and provide the opportunity to work together in a community of learners
  • Providing a personal touch-point for every freshman, sophomore, and transfer student business major, making the transition to WSU manageable and more comfortable
  • Developing professional attitude and etiquette with a focus on teamwork and leadership
  • Offering academic coaching and role modeling for both academic success and professional development

For more information on WSU’s Learning Communities, visit

View all news stories