Hands-on learning - The Bryant difference
It’s a businessperson’s worst nightmare: You’re in the middle of a presentation to a very important client. You click on a link to demonstrate the software you’re recommending, and…nothing. It doesn’t work. In a real-life business situation when you’re competing against other professionals, this glitch could eliminate your firm from the running.
Missteps such as this are all too common, so the Bryant curriculum integrates real-life business consulting projects for students to learn from successes and mistakes.
Daniel Perli, M.D., ’17 MBA, an internist at Kent Hospital, is no stranger to experiential learning – medical school relies heavily on it. “Experiences that are hands-on and outside of the classroom enhance the learning process,” he says. “Learning by doing reinforced key concepts. What I learned in this final consulting project for MBA525 is that recommendations for the client rely on asking appropriate questions and getting specific and detailed answers.”
Perli was one of 29 MBA candidates who were split into six teams and assigned to solve a real-life business problem for Hope Global, a manufacturing company headquartered in Rhode Island for 133 years.
Pairing the students with local companies such as Hope Global gives the business concepts I teach in class some meaning and context. ~Kenneth Sousa, Ph.D.
Kenneth J. Sousa '87 MBA, Ph.D., associate professor in the Computer Information Systems Department, says, “Pairing the students with local companies such as Hope Global gives the business concepts I teach in class some meaning and context. They may start the project feeling intimidated, that the projects require significant effort. And they do. But the value is clearly shown when it’s over and they reflect and understand how prepared they are to enter the business marketplace.”
A COLLABORATIVE CORPORATE PARTNERSHIP
Learning opportunities such as these are made possible through strong partnerships the University cultivates with local corporations. Hope Global’s CEO Cheryl Merchant received an honorary doctorate in business administration from Bryant in 2012 for her tremendous success in the automotive industry and was named the 2014 New England Businesswoman of the Year at Bryant’s Women’s Summit®. She serves on Bryant’s Board of Trustees and has chaired the University’s annual World Trade Day presented by John H. Chafee Center for International Business. She’s a member of the Bryant Leadership Council of Donors at the President’s Society level.
Under Merchant’s leadership, Hope Global’s revenues have tripled and its operations have expanded overseas. In addition to inviting students to work with them on researching solutions to their real business issues, Hope Global sponsors World Trade Day and Women’s Summit® and has funded two International Business practicums this past academic year.
THE DIFFERENCE IS IN THE DOING
“In my undergraduate courses, we completed a strategic management plan for a company,” says Sabrina Raposo ’17 MBA, a compliance analyst at Bristol County Savings Bank. “But it was theoretical only.”
Christopher Waterson ’17 MBA, general manager at his family company, Waterson Terminal Services, which manages ProvPort at the Port of Providence, worked for an actual company as part of his undergraduate education. “We never had any direct interaction with the company, however,” he explains. “For this MBA consulting project, we had multiple opportunities to meet with company principals as well as visit their facility, and it made a difference.”
KEEPING CLIENTS HAPPY
It makes a difference for Hope Global employees Tom Ferrucci ’87, vice president of information systems, and Carlos Neves, engineering director, as well.
Ferrucci, who has worked with Bryant MBA students in the past, was impressed with the written reports and recommendations received. “The students worked hard on their analyses,” he says. “This project helped us see that we were being more reactive than proactive. We received quality reports. We will most likely implement parts of each of the teams’ recommendations.”
Neves, who has never before worked with students as consultants, agreed. “I was pleasantly surprised to find that students were so thorough and knowledgeable. They came to the facility to see things first-hand, and many asked specific and really enlightening questions.”
Cynthia Zammarelli ’15, ’17 MBA, controller and assistant to the dealer principal of Grieco Motor Group, which consists of 17 dealerships, says the experience was both educational and inspiring. “Being able to interact with business professionals and examine their real issues was invaluable. The true impact of an initiative throughout an entire company meant we had to consider how it would affect each of their departments’ work flow.”