by Benjamin Levine
A crash-course in the language of business can be a tough sell for a group of students whose primary focus is on performance and entertainment. Finance is a difficult subject that many people are averse to, but it is essential to understand when starting a business or working in an administrative role. One of the hallmarks of the MSLCE program is that it provides students an opportunity to explore these critical business skills in a way that’s digestible and practical. Professor Cory Sandrock, a Northwestern theatre alumni turned finance expert, was able to connect with the students through his experience as an artist and break down the rules of finance clearly so that a cohort that already thrives in the art world can start to turn their talents into a lifelong career.
Before applying finance to the big picture of business, professor Sandrock made sure that students had the tools they would need to make sense of things. The beginning of the class focused primarily on completing problem sets that covered everything from maintaining a budget to completing pro-forma statements. While the pace of the class was quick and the problem sets demanding, the professor made time to work individually with students and also provided the opportunity to resubmit assignments to make sure the material was understood.
After learning the fundamentals of accounting, the class analyzed real-life case studies where they were asked to evaluate the situation of a company and make a recommendation for how they should solve a financial issue. The skills learned from problem-sets and case studies were combined for the final group assignment where students came up with a new idea and produced an actual business plan, including financial statements, which they presented before the whole class.
Getting anyone to go from having no knowledge of finance to being able to prepare a full business plan in the span of 10 weeks is no easy task. While many of the students initially found this prospect overwhelming, the patient and focused teaching of professor Sandrock kept the cohort engaged and encouraged. While finance may be something most MSLCE students may have avoided had it not been required, it ended up being a fun course that challenged the artistically inclined group to get out of their comfort zone and learn something that will give them an advantage for the rest of their careers.