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Nov. 8, 2012

Dean Percy shares ‘kernel of knowledge’ with students

By Amanda Duncan


Cleveland State’s Monte Ahuja College of Business’ dean, Steve Percy, came to Dr. Robert Whitbred’s Strategic Communication class to speak to the class on Nov. 1.

Percy is the former Chairman and CEO of BP America Inc. and served as president of BP Oil in the U.S.

He is a native of Cleveland and earned a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, a master’s in Business Administration from the University of Michigan and a Juris Doctorate from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law.

Percy retired from BP in 1997.

Percy used his experience at BP to give the students an idea of how BP changed their image from a fossil fuel company brand to one that is concerned with the climate change.

Percy’s presentation showed students how the concepts that they are learning in the class were applied in the real world.

His talk focused on BP in the 1990s when they came out as a company that was concerned with the environment.

Many of the strategies that the company used to convince their stakeholders to go with this movement are the same that Whitbred teaches his students.

Percy emphasized the importance of “being first to the table” as a strategy, showing how it benefitted BP in coming out to say that they were concerned about climate change and how the company worked this shift into its corporate strategy for growth.

The students in the class found Percy’s presentation very instructive and compelling.

Jonathan Herzberger, a graduate student in the class, said that when a large oil company has a to make a transition, they must demonstrate that they care, and communication strategy matters.

Students can take away from Dean Percy’s visit that communication strategy plays an important role not only in communication and business aspects, but in everyday life.

Whitbred invites a variety of speakers to his management communication classes.

This gives students opportunities to gain insight from the speakers’ professional experience in strategic decision-making in orgnaizations.

Whitbred explained he had his students write up questions on strategic communication for Percy to address.

“The whole point of the guest speakers is to get their kernel of knowledge from their point of view,” Whitbred said. “I learn a lot when speakers come to class, and it’s a type of networking aspect for me as well.”