Business seniors building life-long connections to the AUR network
Rafting, hiking, and saving one another from the rapids - thanks in part to alumni funding.

Seniors in the Business Administration program wrapped up their “Capstoner” semester with an exciting field trip to the Italian region of Umbria in April.  The trip featured visits to businesses typical of the region, meetings with managers, and a day of team-building activities including rafting and hiking that was financed by Matthew Ripsom (BUS ’15), now a member of AUR’s Alumni Council.

According to BSBA Program Director Kathleen Fitzsimmons, “This trip was the culmination of a successful semester, and just one of a wide array of activities we do in the Business Administration program to get students out of the classroom and give them a behind-the-scenes view of the economic and political environment of Italy. It is also a load of fun, and a great team builder, ensuring the seniors remain connected to AUR and to one another once they leave.”   

For the second year in a row, the team-building events were underwritten by alum Matthew Ripsom, and hosted at Rafting Marmore, the family business of another alum, Camillo Dall’Oglio (BUS ’16).  It was that "esprit de corps" aspect that motivated Ripsom to earmark a portion of his now annual donation to the Business program, said Fitzsimmons. 

“Matthew felt very strongly connected to his 2015 Capstoner classmates, as a result of the intense Capstone semester.   He approached me with the idea of designing a made-to-measure team-building activity that would ensure that Capstone cohorts that followed his would be guaranteed a shot at having that same kind of bonding experience.  We brainstormed some ideas, and with Camillo’s input, came up with the Rafting idea.  We are grateful to Matthew, who financed the rafting lessons and river-based team building activities (e.g. ropes, life-saving, hiking), and to Camillo, whose family business hosted the event, for reaching back to help other students,” Fitzsimmons added.

This year’s cohort of Business seniors, affectionately known as “The Capstoners,” truly represented the diversity typical of AUR’s student body; they hailed from Pakistan, Venezuela, Ukraine, Ghana, Israel, Japan, Egypt, Italy, and the US.

The Capstoners take their name from their final project – a capstone or senior thesis. In their last Spring semester, each Business senior researches and delivers a “Strategic Audit,” a 360° analysis of a publicly traded, transnational company, applying models and frameworks studied in previous courses, including the senior seminar, Strategic Management.  This year the industries studied spanned from automobiles to video games, fast food to beer, and streaming services to consumer electronics.  

The capstone project showcases the critical thinking, analytical, problem-solving and entrepreneurial skills students learn at AUR.  It is, importantly, also a value-adding addition to the students’ portfolio as they move forward to either graduate school or the world of work.  A number of former Capstoners have parlayed their Strategic Audits into jobs in the companies or industries they studied, including Johnson & Johnson, Disney, Mapei and Oracle.

Other class outings during the semester, designed to gradually build a tight, supportive team, included a major trade show in Rome, a group cooking lesson, and an end-of-year BBQ at Prof. Fitzsimmons’ house.

The destination of the culminating Capstone field trip is Umbria, just three hours from Rome, and known as the “green heart” of Italy, located in the middle of the peninsula and the only region out of Italy’s 20 without access to the sea.  It is famous for its picturesque hilltop villages, wild boar (and pork products), truffles, olive oil, ceramics and of course, wine.  

The four-day Capstoner trip kicked off with a group dinner in Spoleto on Thursday, followed by visits on Friday to Acciai Speciali Terni, one of Italy’s largest steel mills, Olio Ronci, an olive oil producer in Bevagna, and Cantina Le Cimate, a winery in Montefalco. Students learned about the production, met with managers of the companies to discuss marketing, distribution and export strategies, and tasted the local products.  In the evening, they met with the acting Mayor of Spoleto, Maria Elena Bececco, with whom they discussed the challenges posed by the recent earthquakes and the impact on local tourism.

On Saturday they headed to Rafting Marmore at the famous Marmore Waterfalls.  Once they suited up in their wet suits, they had a rafting and safety lesson and then put their newly acquired skills to practice on the river.  This was followed with some life-saving and rope activities in the river, and then a hike up the falls.   Sunday was reserved for site-seeing in Spoleto and Narni before a return to Rome.

Seniors had a chance to thank Matthew in person, at the year-end Senior Reception (see photo).  And Senior Class speaker Noy Dragunshansky (BUS ’18) in her speech at commencement, acknowledged her Capstoner cohort, noting that the diversity in the group mirrored that at AUR, and helped her on her “quest for and appreciation of knowledge in a diverse world.”

See rafting video here and portfolio of photos below