Top business schools focus on building future leaders with an experiential learning model

THROUGH Sydney lakeNov 04, 2022 12:03 p.m

Students have outdoor classes on the Dartmouth College campus in Hanover, New Hampshire as seen in October 2021. (Photographer: Bing Guan – Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Especially in post-COVID times, business students are hungry for hands-on experience before pursuing an MBA program. Companies are striving to develop better business practices for a world that is now highly remote-dependent, and MBA internships offer a glimpse into potential new career dynamics — but business schools are also doing more to give students opportunities to work outside of the learning traditional curriculum.

Top business schools are now offering so-called experiential courses, which move away from typical case study or lecture courses. MBA students are now put to the test in a different way in the classroom, by being tasked with devising strategies to solve real-world problems. This includes impact investing, data analysis and discovering other issues faced by businesses worldwide.

“Experiential learning, when done well, is an incredible complement to a great breed of traditional courses,” says Joel Shapiro, clinical associate professor of business and decision sciences Wealth. He directs the Analytical Consulting Lab at Northwestern University (Kellogg), the wealth is the third largest full-time MBA program in the United States

Courses like Analytical Consulting Lab have the power to give students a step forward in their post-graduation job search, as MBA graduates have more tangible achievements and projects to present during the hiring process.

“Even if you’re not the person doing the analysis in your job, someone will come to you with analysis outputs and results, and you need to know enough about what that means to make good decisions,” Shapiro says . “It’s a wonderful leadership-building experience in the classroom.”

wealth also spoke to other top business schools about their efforts to expand experiential learning opportunities. Both prospective and current MBA students can learn more about the opportunities available to them at these and other business schools, although this list is not exhaustive.

Harvard Business School: HBS Impact Mutual Fund

Impact investing — or investing in an environmental or social contribution — is becoming increasingly important for Harvard Business School students. This No. 1 business school, as in the ranking wealthoffers a field course called the HBS Impact Investment Fund that not only helps students raise awareness of the lack of capital for minority-owned small businesses, but also gives students the opportunity to invest real money to help these businesses grow to help.

“The only real way to learn how to be an impact investor is to make an investment decision — a real-life investment decision — where real capital is at stake,” says Brian Trelstad, an associate professor at the HBS Wealth. “The case method and the lectures just don’t give you the feeling of weighing the pros and cons and discussing them like you would if you were to join an investment firm or an impact investment firm.” The case study method is a common teaching style leading business schools presenting business cases that MBA students discuss and debate.

The development of this course came after the police killing of George Floyd, which prompted large corporations to make donations to support Black and Latinx businesses, Trelstad says. After a year of research to understand the needs and business opportunities in the Boston area, HBS launched the course. Now the HBS Impact Investment Fund course enables small groups of students to conduct impact investing due diligence for local Black, Hispanic and immigrant small business owners.

These students are “very single-minded” and work to create a due diligence plan that will be presented to an investment committee at the end of the course. Approved plans may receive anywhere from $25,000 to $50,000 in funding for the small business the students work with.

“At a formative time in their lives, an experience where they can empathize with and support an entrepreneur of color who is building a business could plant the seed in some of our students,” says Trelstad. “There are many bridges that we must cross economically and politically in this country. If this experience at HBS can help them with that, that would be great.”

Dartmouth College (Tuck): Virtual Global Insights Expedition

MBA students at Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, the wealth Ranked #11 among full-time MBA programs in the US, you have the opportunity to visit Tamil Nadu in South India to explore the concept of reverse innovation. That means “innovating new businesses in a poor country like India and later selling those products and services in a rich country like the United States,” writes Vijay Govindarajan, Tuck’s distinguished Coxe Professor of Management, in his course’s curriculum Reverse Innovation Virtual Global Insights Expedition (VGIX) to Tamil Nadu, South India.

As the course name suggests, students do not actually travel to India to explore this concept. Rather, Govindarajan has worked with a design team to develop a variety of virtual reality content that allows students to learn from and respond to people living in southern India while on the Dartmouth campus.

“You can interview them and try to understand the dire social problems these poor Indians face that companies can offer a solution to,” says Govindarajan. “The biggest takeaway is the social impact this course has created.”

The main vision of the course is to provide MBA students with the opportunity to develop their leadership mentality with a “social heart with a business mind”. This means that through the virtual reality experiences, students learn the value of female leadership, the struggle for access and affordability for specific necessities such as health care, and the importance of humanity in business, explains Govindarajan.

“Ultimately, we need to understand our place in the world,” says Govindarajan Wealth. “We need to have a very deep relationship with humanity. This is another important lesson that you can’t teach with just case studies. You have to experience that, you have to meet these people.”

One of the biggest challenges facing the people of southern India was access to health care, recalls Joe Dalton, Tuck’s 2022 MBA graduate. As a result, he decided to focus his studies in the degree program on accessing telemedicine or developing mobile healthcare. But Dalton’s greatest realization was developing a sense and understanding of the importance of the humanity of business.

“It wasn’t necessarily that this was a hardcore business class, but it emphasized the humanity of the business,” he says Wealth. “At the end of the day, it’s about people. I will always be humbled by the depth of connection we can create through this.”

Northwestern University (Kellogg): Analytical Consulting Laboratory

During the 2019-2020 school year, Joel Shapiro relaunched Kellogg’s Analytical Consulting Lab, a 10-week experiential course in which teams of students “work with real companies on real projects, in real time, with real data.” The course gives students the opportunity to delve deeper into a field of competence that is becoming increasingly important for companies, while also giving them the opportunity to help companies solve problems.

“If you want to be a great company that’s going to be really successful with analytics, you need to be able to identify and find the business opportunity where data can help you,” says Shapiro Wealth. “That’s really the focus of Analytical Consulting Lab.”

Kellogg students work in teams to figure out how the data they have been given access to can create commercial value for their client. Ultimately, the course shows employers that you not only know how to perform data analysis, but that you have successfully “performed analysis to help X companies generate Y insights to improve Z business outcomes,” explains Shapiro in the relaunch -Announcement of his course.

This experiential approach to learning was particularly helpful to Jasmine Truong, who recently graduated from Kellogg’s full-time MBA program.

“You’re not just working on real problems, you’re doing them in real time,” she says wealth. “It’s great for seeing what current companies are dealing with while we’re getting down to basics in our courses.”

Overall, the Analytical Consulting Lab is not a complete replacement for the MBA core courses, but an important addition to the curriculum, explains Shapiro.

“I think experiential learning is underrated in a lot of top business schools,” he says. “Experiential learning, when done well, is also an incredible complement to a great traditional course offering. When people don’t engage in experiential learning, they really deprive their students of an opportunity to learn more about whether they actually enjoy teaching them new skills.”

Check out all Wealth’s rankings of the courses and find out more about specific career paths.

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