By Laura Spitler

One of my favorite classes I am taking this semester is Negotiations, taught by Steve Denson.  For me, it counts as a business elective to round out my marketing degree.  I initially signed up for the course, because I know that being good at negotiating is a very important skill to have in the business world.  I was also aware that a portion of the pay disparity between men and women comes from the fact that women are less likely to negotiate their starting salary and subsequent raises.  I especially like that the class format allows us to put into practice what we are learning without needing to fear for our grade if we don’t get it right the first time.  The majority of our grade comes from participating in our class negotiations, not quizzes and tests that you cram for and then forget a few months later.

We do negotiations in pairs, small groups, and as a whole class (we have a whopping class size of 17) as we learn how to negotiate everything from starting salary to real estate.  Professor Denson even brought in the people who sold the most expensive house in Dallas this year ($16.5M!) to teach our lesson on real estate.  Did I mention they are SMU graduates? –how cool is that!

Many people are scared to negotiate, but by doing so once or twice a week for this class, I am getting much more comfortable with it.  Two weeks ago, I was in Houston for a ballroom competition and when checking my team into the hotel, I put my negotiation skills to work.  That hotel charges $9 per car for parking and we had 9 cars; a negotiating novice would assume this charge is non-negotiable, but by befriending the young hotel desk staffers and appealing that we are college students on a budget who could potentially stay at their hotel again next year for this same competition, I was able to talk them down to only charging us for 2 cars, saving over $60.