What better way for students to learn the ropes of business than to immerse them in its real-world issues.

MBA class, case study, white paper, C-suite

A case-study class is one of Clemson MBA students’ opportunities for hands-on learning.
Image Credit: Brandon Zellars

That’s the thinking behind a pilot class being taught this fall by Clemson University’s MBA program, which has students researching company issues and making recommendations on how to solve problems and enhance outcomes.

“The early returns have been very positive from students and the companies involved,” said Gail DePriest, a senior lecturer in the MBA program. “Students are working with C-level executives from regional and global organizations in the Upstate. These organizational stories are being told through white papers that analyze issues and offer potential recommendations.”

The 12 students in the class have been divided into four teams that are working with four companies and their executives. The idea was inspired by discussions with members of the MBA program’s executive board.

“This class is the first of its kind with our MBA program.   Our executive board recommended more direct interface with organizations,” DePriest said. “What we came up with was a class that combined up close interaction and intense learning.   We hope this class will benefit the journeys of the businesses and students alike.”

Prashant Prabhu brings 35 years of global business experience with Michelin to his role as an instructor in the MBA program. Though the class he teaches with DePriest hasn’t run its course, Prabhu said he is encouraged by feedback so far from students and business leaders.

“At mid-semester, students have brought a fresh set of eyes to some things the institutions had not seen or were not obvious to them,” said the retired Michelin executive. “The challenge ahead will be to condense their analyses and present options for these companies that will benefit them.”

Jared Mogan is a third-year MBA student who describes the class as “intense” and one where you need to be self-directed.

“It forces you to think on your feet,” said Mogan, who is a full-time operations manager for a local staffing company. “Through this class, we are getting to see a company’s issues through the lens of a top-level executive. This class holds a lot more weight than some other courses in how it will impact my MBA outcome, and it’s also providing me with invaluable contacts along the way.”

United Community Bank and its CEO, Lynn Harton, are actively involved in the case-study class, which is examining the regional bank’s significant growth in the last five years. UCB delivers banking services in four states through nearly 160 locations.

“From our end, this is a great opportunity to have the bank’s story and culture told through someone else’s eyes. Culture is about storytelling and we look forward to a third-party review of our last five years and the resulting analysis,” said Harton, an MBA executive advisory board member. “This has also been a great learning opportunity for my executive team. The students have talked to most of the people in the organization and our expectation is they will provide us recommendations on areas we might want to address.”

Pending the outcome and review of the pilot class, DePriest said it is hoped the students’ white papers will be used for teaching future MBA classes.

“These are stories that haven’t been published or told in this way. Through this class, students are benefiting by telling a company’s story and providing an analysis and recommendations,” DePriest said. “Beyond that, some great networking connections are being made with leaders in the business community. This kind of engagement with regional businesses and collaboration with its leadership is another way Clemson’s MBA program is utilizing innovative approaches to preparing our next generation of business leaders.”

# # #