UNC began a relationship with Nike when it signed an agreement to provide shoes and athletic apparel for its athletes and coaches in 1993.
Five years later, the Kenan-Flagler Business School offered the course Economics, Ethics, and Impacts of the Global Economy: The Nike Example, which sparked debate over the apparel company, regarding concerns students were having about Nike's labor practices in overseas factories.
By the end of that spring semester, a staff member from Nike came to view the students’ presentations alongside their recommendations for the company.
The employee turned out to be Nike co-founder Phil Knight. Soon after Knight's visit, Nike addressed the labor concerns within its factories while the University continued to renew its contracts with the company.
This course foreshadowed the current Kenan-Flagler Business School program STAR – which connects students with corporate partners to tackle real business issues, Karin Cochran, executive director of STAR and professor in the school, said.
23 student teams are currently participating in Kenan-Flagler Business School’s Student Teams Achieving Results program, or STAR. Over the next few months, masters of business administration and undergraduate students will work together with a variety of disclosed corporate partners to solve problems for each individual company.
“It was started to allow students to apply what they're learning in the classroom to a real business challenge for a real company," Cochran said. “In the process, we hope they will develop leadership skills, teamwork skills and problem-solving skills."
Cochran said STAR’s students will also present their data, fact and action-based recommendations to real corporate partners.
She took over the program in 2017 and said she loves giving the students the opportunity to have real consulting experience while they’re still in school.