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Cornell University School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions

The information on this site pertains to the Summer College 2017 program. If you would like to be notified when 2018 information and applications are available, please join the Summer College announcement list. We also invite you to become a fan of our Summer College Facebook Page.


Secrets of Business Success

Dates: June 24-July 15, 2017 (3 weeks)
Credits: 3 credits
Eligibility: current sophomores, juniors, seniors
(see eligibility requirements)
Status: This program is now full and no longer accepting applications.


Have you ever thought about becoming the next Steve Jobs? Or imagined yourself as an investor on Shark Tank? In order to do either, you'll need to understand the basic principles of business strategy and the answer to a fundamental question: What makes some companies succeed while others fail?

Led by Mona Anita Olsen, who teaches entrepreneurship theory and practice at Cornell's SC Johnson College of Business, this three-week program will teach you the frameworks used to analyze whether a company will be successful or not, and how companies grow if they are successful.

Professor Olsen will conduct the program in Socratic style, with class participation required and encouraged. This will help you improve your public speaking abilities and introduce you to the classroom environment you can expect at a top-tier university, putting you ahead of your peers in understanding how to be successful in college.

This program also can give you a leg up if you think business school might be in your future. It will expose you to the main concepts you'll need to understand in order to evaluate the success of businesses taught in MBA strategy courses. You'll learn which industry and firm-level characteristics lead to competitive advantage and how firms can expand geographically, in terms of product scope and across the supply chain, to strengthen this advantage.

And, this course can help you hone your skills as a future business leader. Business leaders today need to be successful communicators as well as consumers of information, so you'll discuss not only the business concepts themselves, but also the tools you'll need to become a high-level critical thinker and analyst of business issues. The course will teach you not only what to think when it comes to business strategy, but how to think like a business leader.

We will incorporate a framework unique to this class, using tools from statistics, economics, and logic, that you will be able to use across a wide variety of other courses in the future and that will help you become the type of critical thinker companies seek. Finally, in preparation for the data-driven business world, you will become comfortable with visual representations of data and learn how to "tell a story" through data.

This intensive and engaging program is taught through Cornell's acclaimed Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, part of Cornell's SC Johnson College of Business. The Dyson School's undergraduate business program, among the largest and most selective majors at Cornell, is currently ranked in the top ten nationwide by both Bloomberg Businessweek and U.S. News and World Report.


Students will work in teams to complete two mini-case studies that incorporate concepts from class and apply them to real-life business decisions.

Course expectations

Students are expected to:

  • be entrepreneurial in their learning process (seeking out help, asking questions when needed);
  • strengthen communication skills by participating actively in classroom discussion;
  • develop critical thinking ability; and
  • learn how to work effectively in groups.


You’ll be enrolled in the three-credit course AEM 4940: Undergraduate Special Topics in AEM: Secrets of Business Success.

This course meets Mondays through Fridays from 9:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m.

Maximum enrollment: 73

Note: You may combine this program with any other three-week 2 program to create a six-week Dual Program.


All resources for the class will be published on Blackboard, Cornell's web-based course management system.

Special scheduling


  • Tuesday, July 4: In observance of Independence Day, we will not have classes.
  • Monday, July 10: College Admissions Workshop, 2:30–3:45 p.m.

Checkout dates and times

Before making travel plans, review the checkout dates and times for your program. We strictly adhere to these deadlines.

Program directors

Mona Anita K. Olsen PhD

Mona Anita K. Olsen is an assistant professor in the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business. She is also an Engaged Faculty Fellow at Engaged Cornell for her work on social entrepreneurship.

As an assistant professor, Olsen developed and currently teaches courses focused on entrepreneurship theory and practice. Olsen led Cornell to win a grant with NHH (Norwegian School of Economics) from Norway's Centre for International Cooperation in Education (SIU). She also wrote the grant to lead Cornell's participation in the International Academic Partnership Program (IAPP) Cuba, a core initiative of the Institute of International Education's Center for International Partnerships in Higher Education, which seeks to increase the number of international partnerships between higher education institutions in the U.S. and Cuba.

From 2013 to 2016, Olsen served in the academic directorship of the Leland C. and Mary M. Pillsbury Institute for Hospitality Entrepreneurship at Cornell. Olsen led initiatives to expand and enrich the Pillsbury Institute's multifaceted work on entrepreneurship education. She engaged partners at all levels to integrate the work of the Pillsbury Institute into ongoing efforts within the Hotel School, Cornell University more broadly, and internationally, including engagement with entrepreneurs at all stages, Cornell alumni, entrepreneurs in residence, academics, and corporate affiliates.

Prior to joining the Cornell faculty, Olsen was a U.S. Fulbright Grantee to Norway, awarded by the United States Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board. Olsen embraced her experience in Norway, where she focused on growing iMADdu, the educational nonprofit she founded in 2010. iMADdu stands for "I Make A Difference, Do You?" and empowers young entrepreneurs through mentoring and participation in its student apprenticeship program. Olsen was the assistant director of the Mason Small Business Development Center at the Office of Research and Economic Development at George Mason University. She also worked as a worldwide sales analyst for Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts.

Student experiences

"I would definitely recommend Summer College to a friend. My course was informative and challenging, and I made close friends that I know I will keep for a lifetime. The weather was beautiful, the sunsets were breathtaking, and the people were unbelievably kind." — Karen Hsu, 2016