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Students string trades into a strand of pearly happiness for a local charity

May 12, 2011

The pearly team included (clockwise from left) Erika Reutimann, Matt Scolari, William Migler, Matt Coates, Chase Brooks and Mackenzie Schepman.

The assignment was to take one paper clip and cleverly trade it up to something spiffy enough for a charity silent auction – a couple of tickets to a baseball game maybe, or a restaurant gift card. The students thought the task a bit odd, and fretted a little. But they plunged in and soon discovered that people will trade away things they don’t particularly value in exchange for something they want.

And that’s how a team of undergraduates in a Management 316 course in the Argyros School of Business and Economics ended up with a 70-inch pearl necklace with an appraised value of $8,000. Professor Matthew McCarter, Ph.D., was flabbergasted, the students were surprised and Ana Jimenez-Hami, Ph.D., founder and executive director of the Orange County Children’s Therapeutic Arts Center was thrilled. When it goes to auction, proceeds from the necklace will be a boon for the center, which provides art workshops and programs for special-needs and at-risk children

“These students’ efforts in helping us raise funds go right back into these programs,” Dr. Jimenez-Hami said.

The assignment was based on The One Red Paper Clip Project, which Dr. McCarter has adapted for his MBA courses. This year he decided to challenge his undergrads to play the barter game.

“We’re always looking for ways to really engage them in their learning. In this particular scenario this is an opportunity for students to really put their planning into action. Most business schools teach kids how to plan to do things. We’re going to put their plans into practice,” Dr. McCarter said.

Teams can’t let on that the project is for charity and the first trades can be paltry and are often made among friends who find the idea of trading a paper clip for something like a pizza coupon odd but amusing. But then through a series of successive trades, the teams tote up ever more valuable items until the assignment is due. The pearl necklace was the final treasure at the end of a line of trades that started with a ballpoint pen deal. The final trade was a fine art photographic print made with an  internship mentor working for the Home Shopping Network. Pearls aplenty there, apparently, but not enough art for the walls of her new home.

The pearl necklace was extraordinary, but all the Chapman teams did well. Other top items included a Palm Springs weekend, a collection of vintage records with a “vinyls party,” artwork, a hotel and dinner package and tickets to sporting events.

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