App State students, ECRS leaders collaborate to solve problems

Students in Teresa Spangler's Innovation and Management Consulting class are providing actionable solutions for local businesses in Boone, North Carolina.

Spangler, founder and CEO of PlazaBridge Group, is a lecturer in the Department of Management at Appalachian State University. She knows the value of experiential learning and professional partnerships because, for more than 30 years, Spangler has been a driving force behind innovation and growth as a social entrepreneur, innovation expert and growth strategist.

The Walker College of Business provides students opportunities to practice what they learn in class in real-world situations, and the students build a professional network while they're doing it. 

Spangler's class members, management majors in the Walker College, were partnered with local industry leaders to tackle big challenges for organizations, including Boone-based ECRS, a transaction and retail solutions provider with App State ties.

They worked to develop ways for local and regional retailers to reduce hefty transactional credit fees.

Working closely with ECRS CEO Pete Catoe and other key leaders at ECRS, the students developed a product based on the inputs and constraints that were given.

“It is my hope for [these students] that they will continue the path of becoming innovators, with the hopes of making companies, communities, industries, and their state better than how they found them," said Catoe. 

“The best possible outcomes I could imagine are being realized," said Spangler. "The company learns from our efforts and the students learn by doing real work."

In a previous semester, Spangler's class successfully developed new solutions for, an AI driven healthcare solutions company, to build a value proposition marriage between healthcare and pharmacy.

Students interested in taking Innovation and Management Consulting (Management 3531) can learn more or register at

By: Ben Whitehead
Boone, NC

About the Department of Management at Appalachian State University

App State's Department of Management offers two undergraduate Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (BSBA) degree programs: the major in management (MGT) and the major in hospitality and tourism management (HOS). The department also offers, for both business and non-business majors, minors in entrepreneurship, human resource management, and sustainable business. At the graduate level, the Industrial-Organizational Psychology and Human Resource Management Program (IOHRM) is an interdisciplinary and award-winning Master of Arts degree program offered jointly by the Department of Management and Department of Psychology. Learn more at

Back row, from left, are: Carson Arnold, Ben Gress, Noah Zeller, Matthias Von Feilitzsch, Tyler Hampsey, Porter Poteet; Front row, from left, are: Ben Whitehead, Professor Teresa Spangler, Rory Cole, Savannah Little, Zack Winterstein, ECRS CEO Pete Catoe
Published: May 23, 2023 2:14pm