Ask Chris or I-Chieh. Ask Enache and Carlos. Ask any of the MBA students featured in a recent UNCG magazine ad what has been the apex of their academic journey. Their answer: the opportunity to solve real-life business challenges for client organizations throughout North Carolina.
MBA students in the Bryan School of Business and Economics are gaining valuable experience — and providing a valuable service — in the form of intense consulting projects for regional businesses and non-profit organizations.
The university's advertising campaign in Time, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, US News & World Report and Our State magazines currently showcases a marketing-based consultancy project completed for the North Carolina Zoological Society. MBA students were divided into four teams to develop the most effective and creative marketing proposal to increase zoo visitors. After presenting their proposals in front of faculty, fellow classmates and the associate director of the zoo society, students awaited the client's final decision.
"It was a win-win situation all-around. The client benefited from our work and we got to put our knowledge to the test in a way that greatly supports our future career development," said Enache Enache, an MBA student from Romania and member of the winning team. "Collaborating on an in-depth consulting project is critical 'real life' experience that MBA students must have."
Consultancy is fast-becoming a critical component in the Bryan School curriculum for undergraduates, graduate students and MBA students. It is also attracting statewide businesses and organizations seeking the advice of students who bring energy and creative thinking to problem solving.
In fact, consulting is at the core of MBA629, a semester-long capstone experience for full-time MBA students. While the Bryan School has always collaborated with community partners in a variety of ways, creating a formal course around consulting is a relatively new endeavor—but one that has already seen tremendous success. MBA629 was first offered in 2005; to date, the client list already includes large corporations like software company Red Hat Inc., Tyco Electronics and Valspar, a $3 billion manufacturer of coatings and floorings. MBA students have also provided consulting services for community-oriented organizations such as the Women's Resource Center of Alamance County and the Randolph County Small Business Center at Randolph Community College.
Teams of MBA students are hand-picked for a business according to project goals. The student groups include a balance of skills and experience to allow for the best-rounded team possible. Some have innate leadership or organizational skills. Some are highly creative. Others are international students and bring a critical global perspective. The balance is important given the broad nature of most projects, which includes a comprehensive list of client objectives spanning economic development, strategic planning, marketing, operations and finance.
In the case of a feasibility study conducted for Red Hat, two MBA exchange students from Taiwan were placed on the assignment. The company was considering expanding operations to Taiwan and valued the students’ experience and translation abilities.
For Tyco Electronics, working with MBA students has been so positive that it has brought about repeat business for the Bryan School—last year a logistics project and currently, a new project concentrating on competitive pricing and profit improvement. "The students ask probing questions, grasp information quickly and have shown great enthusiasm," says Tyco controller Mark Baker. "Their proposal identified segments in the supply chain to improve and change. As a result, we've experienced reduced logistical costs in our Mexico operations. Their professionalism speaks highly of the Bryan School MBA program and the training students receive in the curriculum."
For more information, please use the following links: