Whether it’s turning around a distressed retail property or innovating a manufacturing process, working professionals continue to reap rewards from Clemson University’s part-time MBAe program.Innovation at Work, MBAe, executives

Graduating students in the Masters of Business Administration in entrepreneurship and innovation program showcased their business accomplishments in recent “Innovation at Work” presentations at Greenville ONE.

“Innovation at Work is an excellent illustration of how the MBA program is bringing real-life solutions to business-world issues, while students further their educations,” said Greg Pickett, director of MBA programs and senior associate dean of the College of Business. “In their presentations, our MBA cohorts essentially validate how classroom learning, properly executed, can bring bottom-line results to their businesses.”

Clemson’s part-time MBAe program caters primarily to working professionals, who choose to earn an MBA without interrupting their careers. The two-year program’s curriculum is delivered through weekend classes, which meet twice each semester, and through online coursework.

MBAe student Kyle Hackel, chief operating officer of the Big E Gaffney, was one of three cohorts recognized for successfully applying classroom learning to bottom-line results in his business. Hackel was awarded $3,000, James Upshur, $2,000 and Will Jeffcoat, $1,000 for their Innovation at Work presentations.

Hackel and his business partner took a distressed Gaffney property that previously offered some entertainment attractions and turned it into a highly profitable, one-stop entertainment complex. And the Marine Corps veteran said the MBAe’s approach to problem solving through innovative thinking was a key to making the business successful.

“The MBAe program reinforces a ‘go out and do it attitude’ and teaches you to fix problems as you identify them,” Hackel said. “We took it to heart in turning the property’s fortunes around. From adding huge, new amusement attractions to the aesthetics of paint and landscaping, we re-energized the property. Then, through creative marketing, we made our brand known through a variety of media channels.”

Big E Gaffney is now a full-service family entertainment center that offers an eight-screen movie theater, 16 lanes of bowling, laser tag, mini-golf, an indoor play land and more, including a variety of food options.

The second- and third-place Innovation at Work winners also realized business improvements by taking a creative approach to problem solving. Upshur, an applications engineer at Parker Hannifin Teachseal, helped develop “collaborative robots” that work safely with humans in a manufacturing setting. Jeffcoat, a senior manager at Chick-fil-A, is working on a crowd-sourced employee scheduling platform (iLead) that gives workers autonomy and work-life balance.

“Clemson’s MBAe program empowers successful business executives like Kyle, James and Will to look at their businesses differently and solve problems in innovative ways,” Pickett added. “Through a combination of distinguished educators and lessons learned through their cohorts, these executives are elevating their businesses, and in the process, their careers.”

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