Indiana State, Clabber Girl team up in 'Clabberation' effort

By: ISU Communications and Marketing Staff, ISU Communications and Marketing Staff
May 26, 2011

As Indiana State University Professor Ken Jones drove to campus for an interview last fall, he caught a glimpse of something that surprised him. On his way to the Scott College of Business, he drove right past Clabber Girl, about three blocks away from his interview.

"So immediately the wheels were spinning that, maybe we should reach out to these folks, because my teaching approach is a little bit different," Jones said. "It's experiential learning first."

Those were the first steps that helped lead to Indiana State University and Clabber Girl officials forming the partnership known as "Project Clabberation." In the initiative, ISU students work with Clabber Girl employees on a variety of projects as a way to provide the students with hands-on experience to enhance and supplement what they are learning in the classroom. Several groups of students from Jones's classes this past spring semester were among the first to work on collaborative initiatives as part of the new project.

"We're getting so much hands-on experience here, and the minute he brought this up, we realized this company is really opening their doors to us," said Brittany Jones, junior operations management major from Clinton, Ind., who is the team leader on one of the projects. "They really want us there. They want us to help with something."

She worked as part of a group diagramming the process flow chart of Clabber Girl's retail baking powder line. The diagram explains how each of Clabber Girl's departments is involved in the process.

"We knew it was a great opportunity," Brittany Jones said of her group's efforts. "It was worth the extra hours of work. I can definitely vouch for that. It has been worth every minute we've put into it, and more."

A separate group worked with Clabber Girl on the company's packaging line for its Royal® gelatin product. Students involved in the project were working on their green belt certification in Six Sigma training, an industry-recognized method for problem-solving and continuous improvement, Ken Jones said.

The students worked with Clabber Girl employees to help improve efficiency in the packaging process, said Ken Campbell, executive director of manufacturing operations for the food ingredient manufacturer. The ISU group identified the box-making and labeling process as an area that could be improved to increase the amount of gelatin shipped daily.

"With the increased gelatin business, it's a perfect area for us to work on," Campbell said.

This is hardly the first time that ISU students have worked with Clabber Girl to enrich the lessons from the classroom. Students in Indiana State's food and nutrition program have worked with the food products manufacturer, for example. Still other students have worked with Clabber Girl, and the company has hired interns and other ISU graduates for full-time positions.

Still, Project Clabberation is the first time that a long-term partnership has been explicitly spelled out. Expectations are high that the initiative will lead to ISU students working with Clabber Girl projects in a consistent fashion. Clabber Girl President Gary Morris envisions projects that would involve students majoring in disciplines across the Scott College of Business.

"There are just a number of projects that we want to accelerate," Morris said, "and this helps us do it."

 

Not all the projects involved in the collaborative efforts were weeks-long initiatives. Jones worked with Kumi McGuire, purchasing director for Clabber Girl, to create a negotiations workshop he taught to about 10 students one afternoon in late April.

 

During the session, Jones provided the students with several role-play simulations, including one that involved Clabber Girl negotiating with a hypothetical supplier. Though the role-play was not a real situation, McGuire reviewed it to ensure that it was similar to the negotiations that the company encounters.

As Jones discussed concepts during the session, he at times asked McGuire for her perspective based on her experiences negotiating with suppliers and service providers. The simulations helped teach students about negotiations in a manner that was different than what might simply be taught in the textbook, she said.

"So I think it was a great opportunity to learn in a real business world scenario," she added.

Morris sees the benefit for students to learn by participating on projects, rather than simply learning about them in a textbook, which may omit information about realistic situations.

"The one fact I can state is the fact that it never works like that," Morris said. "Whatever it is in a book and in theory, there's always some variable to it."

Quite a few possibilities already exist for future collaborative projects. Clabber Girl will be working during the coming year on a "green" initiative focused on reducing the company's carbon footprint, and Morris suggested that ISU students could work on efforts related to that, such as working with suppliers to reduce inbound packaging that Clabber Girl receives.

"That's just one of the thousands of projects that could take place," he said.

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/photos/i-64KhPGd/0/L/i-64KhPGd-L.jpg (ISU/Tony Campbell)
Indiana State University student Jason Swartzell (left), Clabber Girl employees Tonya Arthur, Ken Campbell and Kenny Bender, ISU professor Ken Jones and student Brittany Jones work during a session at Clabber Girl. Students from several classes taught by Jones worked with Clabber Girl officials on several initiatives as part of Project Clabberation, a new joint effort between ISU and Clabber Girl.

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Events/2011-Student-Presentations/i-XF3mqbZ/0/L/2011%20student%20presentations%20clabber%20girl_10-L.jpg (ISU/Holley Hiett-Myers)
Indiana State University professor Ken Jones talk to several students during a workshop about negotiations at Clabber Girl headquarters in Terre Haute. Jones organized the session with Kumi McGuire, purchasing director for Clabber Girl. The event was one of several projects created as part of "Project Clabberation," a joint initiative between ISU and Clabber Girl.

Contact: Ken Jones, professor, operations management, Scott College of Business, Indiana State University, 317-413-6753 or kenneth.jones@indstate.edu.

Writer: Austin Arceo, assistant director of media relations, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or austin.arceo-negrich@indstate.edu.