Apr 26

FUSION! It was the hot topic in this semester’s MGMT 776 Strategic Planning course at the University of South Carolina. What does it mean? What concepts does it apply to? And how do we gain a fused view of the world? The Spring 2023 cohort of the Strategic Innovation Certificate program set the record straight over the course of the term. The group expressed their passionate views and thoughts on the first day of class, creating a dynamic synergy that sparked challenging conversations and thoughtful discussions that continued throughout the term. 

“This cohort was extra lively and exciting to be around,” beamed Laura B. Cardinal, who is better known by her students as “Prof. C.” During her course, offered by the Darla Moore School of Business, Prof. C provided students with a platform to debate challenging concepts and decisions in a risk-free and meaningful environment (i.e., no one loses a job over our conversations when we discuss a difficult decision faced by a company). 

“When we began talking about the word, “fusion,” the cohort immediately dove in on the topic. Some thought the concept also referred to diversity within diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). While I assured them DEI is not fusion, I did encourage the wide-ranging debate on the topic,” explains Cardinal. 

Students learned from Prof. C that fusion is a crucial concept when discussing strategic innovation and how we gain a fused view of the world of strategy, science, and innovation, especially within converging industries. Students represented all types of industries within their own backgrounds. Their industries included banking, aerospace, energy, construction, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, and more. The exposure to students from different areas of study and work experiences, allows the cohort to approach topics and concepts in ways they wouldn’t normally consider.

This Strategic Planning course (to be renamed Strategic Innovation Planning and Processes) is one of the three required courses of the Strategic Innovation Certificate. Now in its second year, 87 percent of the students in this class were also enrolled in the certificate. Students traveled from all over to attend Prof. C’s popular class, including one from New York, NY, which is by far the longest distance a student has traveled to attend! In fact, more than 50 percent of the students enrolled in this term traveled from outside the Columbia Metro area, including Bluffton, Rock Hill, Greenville, Charleston, and even Charlotte and Harrisburg, NC. 

The large number of students willing to commute these long distances speaks to the popularity of Prof. C and her ability to deliver valuable lessons that gives students a leg-up in their professions and career paths. 

“I’m humbled and honored that students are finding this course so worthwhile!” says Cardinal. “As our courses grow and expand, I find the topics do as well. The wide-ranging debates we had on the topic of fusion goes to show as time moves on, conversations change too. I value the opportunity that I have here. I often end up with my own learning takeaways from the students themselves! Their viewpoints and inputs are one-of-a-kind!” 

Cardinal was brought to USC in 2016 to fill the SC Innovates Endowed Chair position and to help lead accessibility to innovation and strategy programs for organizations and students alike. She is a firm believer that the Center’s and certificate’s mission is a critical part of preparing next generation business leaders.