Beyond the Classroom


By: Ali Burleson

What if education went beyond the confines of lecture halls and textbooks? What if students had the opportunity to tackle real-world challenges, collaborate with industry leaders and make a tangible impact on the business world before they even graduated? At Culverhouse and Manderson, these questions aren’t just hypothetical; they’re the foundation of a transformative approach to learning.

Culverhouse and Manderson students Eric Obenaus, Tommy Orchanian, Cassey Valadez, and Shelby Reece recently neared the end of a semester-long, immersive learning experience alongside their peers through our small business consulting course. Under the guidance of associate professor Dr. Paul Drnevich, both graduate and undergraduate students gain real-world experience by applying what they’ve learned in the classroom to a business setting. Students select a client from a roster of local businesses seeking managerial insights and assistance, and work with those clients on solving real world business problems while also gaining job skills.

View the end of semester interviews below.

Rolling with Crimson: Eric Obenaus and Tommy Orchanian Boost Yea Alabama’s Momentum

Manderson MBA student Eric Obenaus and Culverhouse marketing senior Tommy Orchanian set their sights on collaborating with Yea Alabama, an endorsed University of Alabama NIL startup. Currently, it stands as the sole official UA collective dedicated to assisting student-athletes in their pursuit to establish and foster personal branding.

Their objective was to boost visibility and engagement for the entity while increasing its overall subscriber count. Obenaus and Orchanian conducted an analysis of similar NIL collectives. Then, it was time to get to work by refining social media strategies and optimizing the website’s payment process functionality.

“Their target audience goes beyond just students,” Orchanian said. “But for us, they wanted us to prioritize targeting students because they wanted to build a connection with the student body.”

One of the most significant tactics Obenaus and Orchanian proposed was the idea of a partnership between Yea Alabama and Crimson Chaos, which is notorious for its unchecked enthusiasm when cheering on the Crimson Tide.

The team is optimistic for the future of Yea Alabama. “NIL is here to stay in some way, shape or form,” Orchanian said. “At a school as historic in the athletic context as UA, Yea Alabama has the potential to grow rapidly. They’ve got the access already; they just have to take the step to improve and streamline the product they are giving to consumers.”

Stitching Success: Cassey Valadez and Shelby Reece Tailor Metre Apparel’s Journey

Culverhouse seniors Cassey Valadez and Shelby Reece teamed up with Metre Apparel, a custom clothing brand founded by Culverhouse alumna, Karah Block. With Metre Apparel set for its inaugural release this summer, Valadez and Reece have embraced the opportunity to collaborate with a client business from its inception, seeing it as a unique and invaluable learning experience.

The two students have been instrumental in aiding Block by conducting market research, offering strategic insights ranging from brand name suggestions to identifying the target market, and determining the most effective media channels in reaching them.

“The most challenging part of the project was just believing in ourselves and trusting our findings and recommendations based on our research,” Valadez, who is also pursuing a major in marketing, said. However, when speaking on the most rewarding aspect of the project thus far, Valadez confidently explained the project enhanced and developed her portfolio of professional skills: “I’ll carry aspects from this consulting project into other aspects of my life, knowing that when I get tasked with something similar in my future career, I’ll feel properly equipped and be prepared.”

Tuscaloosa area projects included:

  1. Adam Clark & Gavin Schafer – working with T&C Construction of Hoover to improve their marketing and branding.
  2. Brendan Dougherty & Matt Hutson – working with Who Is Coffee to help UA Alum Ben Bickerstaff grow his wholesale coffee sales.
  3. Chloe Beacham & Shelby Self – working with PELA Geo Environmental to design and develop a water bottling plant for a local spring.
  4. Ellie Long & Haley Wyatt – working with radio station WDJC in Birmingham to develop an internship program for UA students.
  5. Eric Obenaus & Tommy Orchanian – working with NIL startup Yeah Alabama to build a sustainable NIL program for UA Athletes.
  6. John Hedayat – working with the new Tuscaloosa office of the American Heart Association to promote awareness of their events.
  7. Lily Glasman & Nicole Riddle – working with the Humane Society of West Alabama to help design their new 12-acre rescue shelter facility.
  8. Sean Scarbrough & Vince Duffy – working with the “Boozy Spirits” Podcast to increase its subscriber reach.
  9. Seth Macmillan & Tyler Newman – working with Garage Doors Supply to help them open their new distribution center in Pelham.
  10. Shelby Reece & Cassey Valadez – working with Metre Apparel to help UA Alum Karah Block launch a custom clothing brand.


Authored by

Media Inquiries

Zach thomas

Director of Marketing & Communications