One of the features that sets the MBA Sustainable Business Practices apart from other programs is consulting projects. We have the opportunity to take the lead in every aspect of project development with our respective client, which enables us to develop unique and informed solutions across different business functions. Our consulting teams have been busy the past two weeks preparing and conducting mid-point client reviews and receiving feedback on research that has been conducted up to this point.
Last Friday, my SYKES Enterprises consulting team members and I left Pittsburgh at 5am and headed east to visit one of the client’s operations facilities in Allentown, Pennsylvania (SYKES conducts business process outsourcing. The facility we visited handled customer service calls for Medicare recipients in California and Oregon). During the visit, we met with the site director, toured the operations floor, conversed with mid-level management teams, and gathered a strong understanding of the daily business operations at the call center.
The Allentown site visit was a key component of our research for the larger ongoing research being conducted by my SYKES consulting team. The ability to see firsthand operations and speak with company leadership allowed our team to better understand the SYKES company dynamics and goals, with the intention of creating a well-developed consulting recommendation by the end of this semester.
Last week several of our cohort members took a break from classes to attend the National Black MBA Association (NBMAA) Conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. According to the NBMBAA conferences’ website, “The 2017 Annual Conference & Exposition presented by NBMBAA® & Prospanica® featured an array of programming designed to help attendees expand their leadership capabilities while learning valuable information to increase marketability in a highly-competitive landscape. Entrepreneurs, students and seasoned professionals were enriched by exclusive networking opportunities and invaluable industry knowledge.” Our cohort attendees mingled and networked with a wide array of business professionals from across the country, while representing Duquesne University and the MBA Sustainable Business Practices program.
Attendance at professional conferences are a part of the ongoing Career Practicum course requirements, and some of the costs of attending are covered by Duquesne, making the experience very accessible. The intention is to give us the opportunity to meet business leader’s employers, and fellow students, network, and learn about cutting-edge trends in the business world. The National Black MBA Association Conference was just one of many conferences that our cohort team members will attend in the upcoming months; several members will attend conferences in places such as Atlanta, Boston, and Orlando.
Despite all the fun at conferences, it is hard to believe that the mid way point of the semester is upon us. As we get ready to finish one class, two more are about to begin in less than two weeks, leaving no doubt that the rest of the semester will remain busy.
The theme of last week and early this week has been presentations, presentations, and more presentations. One of the most critical skills for a business leader to master is the ability to take an overwhelming amount of information, decipher, and present it to peers and supervisors in a concise and understandable way. The past week has been full of this for our cohort.
The better part of last week was spent preparing for group presentations that are taking place early this week. On Monday in Dr. Sroufe’s Strategic Sustainability and Models class, members of our cohort presented on the challenges and benefits of integrated reporting, as well as the practical application of natural capitalism. Both topics helped members of our cohort understand the various tools that can be used to when faced with a sustainable business dilemma.
On Tuesday in Dr. Spangler’s Information Systems class, small groups will present on topics such as 3D printing, notorious security breaches, and safe computing practices. These topics are some of the major areas of concern and interest in relation to information technology in the workplace today and must be understood by future and current business leaders.
It is hard to imagine that after preparing for presentations our cohort would have time to focus on any other tasks. But as the temperatures have risen since last week here in Pittsburgh, so have the tasks that need to be completed during this, busy semester. Our cohort has also been challenged by completing financial analysis tables, engaging in lively round table discussions on supply and demand in economics, and continuing to meet with project partners and develop a business strategy.
But as September comes to a rapid end, the good news is Thanksgiving break is roughly only two months away.
It is hard to believe that we are already into the fourth week of the fall semester! In addition to the normal schedule of weekly classes, our cohort began initial client meetings for the fall consulting projects, as well as continued group presentations for Dr. Spangler’s Information Systems class, and constructing financial analysis models in Dr. Baird’s Financial Management course. Through the application of these processes, we can realize the interconnectedness of all these disciplines, and how they relate to the role of an MBA.
Aside from classes, we also kicked off initial meetings with our freshmen business mentees. The meetings consisted of, getting to know the members of the freshmen teams, and outlining the details and timeline of the project that the freshman will be working on.
This week consisted of more than just meetings and classes. On September 13, Duquesne held their Fall 2017 job fair, which consisted of over 100 national and regional employers. The job fair experience gave us the opportunity to meet face to face with industry professionals, and explore the many job options that are available.
In addition to the job fair, members of our cohort were given the opportunity to attend the 2017 Living Products National Expo, held at the David L. Lawrence convention center from September 12-14. The LPE displayed emerging building products that facilitate greener building processes and featured speakers from various fields of sustainability. These speakers discussed the many issues that pose building sustainability, and how various methods and products can mitigate these risks.
LPE was the first of many conferences and expos that members of our cohort will be attending over the next few months. Keep posted and find out more!
The Labor Day holiday was a nice break as the Fall semester gets into full swing. The first few weeks of the semester have been full of initial queries into various projects for the 2018 cohort.
Our cohort comprised of four consulting teams recently completed their business scouting reports for their respective clients. The teams are now beginning the process of scheduling initial client meetings and developing a business analysis both of which will lay the framework for the rest of the project. Business consulting has not been the only ongoing project for the cohort; they have also been conducting presentations in Dr. Spangler’s Information Systems class on various technology matters such as; data and security breaches, Green IT, and Green IT reporting methods. Although the bulk of labor so far has been devoted to these two classes, other classes such as Financial Management and Strategic Sustainability & Models have challenged us in terms of the construction of case study analysis and the application of business methods as it pertains to the prescribed classes.
Aside from a busy class schedule, the 2018 cohort was given the tremendous opportunity to take a reprieve from the constant classes and projects to mentor Freshmen business students in a semester-long project. This project will witness the Freshmen developing a business plan that will have the potential to create a lasting impact on economic development in the community around Duquesne University.
Now that Labor Day is over and the unofficial end of summer is upon us, we are amid a long stretch without any breaks (not until Thanksgiving). However, this period will allow the 2018 cohort members to develop a nice rhythm and give them the opportunity to devote most of their time to studying and focusing on the many ongoing projects!
The fall semester began fittingly this week at Duquesne with “The Great American Solar Eclipse” on August 21, following a brief summer break for the 2018 cohort. But, the 2018 cohort members did not spend all their break partaking in leisure activities; preparation for classes such as financial management and economics have also been focal point during the break. Several pre-modules were available to give the cohort members a brief introduction into what they will experience over the course of the semester.
In addition to pre-module work, the cohort members were introduced to their new business consulting teams and projects for Dr. Sroufe’s fall sustainable business consulting project. Three of the four teams will undertake some unfamiliar projects involving Rockwool, International Living Futures Institute Living Product Hub, and Uptown EcoInnovation District, while one team will continue to work with Sykes Enterprises. All in all, the projects should prove to be an interesting and fruitful experience for each team.
Aside from economics, finance and business consulting the fall semester will also include classes in information systems management, supply chain management, strategic sustainability and sustainability management. The variety of classes will help shape the cohort’s understanding of sustainable business practices and general business management practices, as well as give them the opportunity to gain valuable hands-on experience with industry leaders in the region.
The three and a half months ahead are jam packed, but each member of the 2018 cohort is ready and excited for the challenges that await them.
This last week has been a sprint for the 2018 cohort. Monday proved to be a long night as the small groups finalized their research and conducted internal rehearsals in anticipation for the faculty evaluation portion of their summer consulting projects for Sykes Enterprises, which will take place on Tuesday. Each team presented their sustainability recommendations for Sykes during a twenty-minute presentation. These recommendations included topic such as employee talent retention and energy saving upgrades at existing Sykes facilities.
After the presentations ended, our hectic schedule continued. Wednesday marked the second exam for the summer’s managerial accounting class, followed by preparation for the semester’s ethics audit in business ethics and further research and preparation for the business consulting client presentation, which will take place on Tuesday of next week. Friday ended with another career practicum session that was focused on job networking and a Q & A session with local alums. The alums who attended represented a range of sectors from non-profit, e-commerce and commercial real estate. The nearly two-hour round-table discussion gave the cohort members the ability to ask questions about the employer’s respective fields, what the employers look for in new hires, and how they got to the point in their careers today.
Despite a long week, the end of the semester is in in sight and a brief summer vacation is on the horizon. Discussion amongst the cohort members has been revolving around each other’s summer plans and various study methods that will be employed over the final weekend prior to finals. Everyone is excited for the short break and more importantly everyone appears to be focused on the tasks at hand for the week ahead.
As we roll into the last few weeks of July, the Duquesne MBA Sustainable Business Practices program is about to witness the end of one cohort’s journey on the Bluff, while witnessing the evolution of the next. It is hard to believe the 2018 cohort has been off and running for nearly two months and are nearly finished with their first semester.
The shorter summer session has been very demanding for the current cohort, who have dedicated their time to a wide array of classes related to business decision making and practical business applications.
Last week, the cohort held their mid-point review and presentation for their semester consulting project-Sykes Incorporated. Sykes is a large business process outsourcing (BPO) company based in Tampa, Florida. The four teams received valuable information from the sustainability team at Sykes, as well as outside consultants working for Sykes. The information received during the review allowed the teams to evaluate their current progress and will help the teams adequately prepare for their final presentation, which will occur in less than three weeks.
In addition to a jam packed sixth week of classes, other events included presentations by the cohort teams pertaining to their annual accounting report in Professor Bob Kollar’s managerial accounting class. The four teams that presented picked various companies that varied from Auto Zone, Pepsi Co, Chipotle and Caterpillar. The research conducted by the teams included decision making ratios, historical industry trends and overall company profitability to reflect whether the selected companies would be profitable investment opportunities.
The 2018 cohort will remain busy over the next two weeks as they prepare for the final consulting presentations and final exam week, which is scheduled for the first week of August. Despite the intense schedule and lack of free time (at times), the 2018 cohort has developed high levels of cohesion as a class and subsequent small teams.
The Tuesday after Memorial Day marked the official kick off of orientation week for the 2017-18 cohort of the MBA Sustainable Business Practices. The newest cohorts conducted introductions and mingled over breakfast, followed by a welcome and program overview from Dr. Karen Donovan and other members of the graduate office staff. Michael Kumer kicked off the instruction period of orientation with an interactive and high energy presentation on communication and collaboration, that focused on active listening. The first day ended with a panel of some local human resources recruiters, who conducted a question and answer session with the new cohort and provided insight on the resume and interview process.
On Wednesday, the cohort sat in on sessions that included how to structure effective teamwork with Dr. Aimee Kane, research based activities related to Excel with Dr. Matthew Drake, and tenets of good research, which took place in the Rockwell Hall investment center, with Jennifer Milcarek and Christie Kliewer.
Thursday was the longest and most action-packed day of the week for the cohort. The morning began with professional headshots being taken and was followed by a presentation from Diane Ramos and Dr. Robert Sroufe on how to conduct an analyzation of a graduate business case. Additionally, the cohort were treated to a presentation by the 2017 cohort from the Duquesne sMBA team, who won 2nd place at the 2017 Aspen Institute International Case Competition in New York City. Finally, the cohort was given their shot at compiling their own business case study and then presented it to the MBA Sustainable Business Practices faculty. The day ended with an enjoyable dinner and networking session with fellow Duquesne alumni and faculty at Bayer Hall.
A fast-paced week concluded on Friday. Dr. Sroufe led the cohort through the FishBanks simulation, which pitted the cohort teams against one another in an interactive fishing company simulation. Friday ended with a session on Design Thinking that was conducted by Dr. Dorene Ciletti.
After a motivating and information packed week, the 2018 cohort was ready to go for the beginning of classes on Monday.
Starting this October, the newest Sustainability MBA (sMBA) program cohort began their first hands-on consulting project. This year the sMBA program has partnered with Cisco Systems Inc. under the guidance of Duquesne alumnus Ken Trombetta, Vice President Cisco’s Global Partner Organization. The cohort started the project with a design systems simulation with Dr. Ciletti and another faculty member to hone our analytical skills, before going to meet with Ken and other Cisco executives. The week following the design system simulation the cohort attended a meeting brief at Cisco System offices in the North Shore of Pittsburgh where the cohort learned the details of the consulting project.
The consulting project entails performing an analysis of several different companies that Cisco pre-picked for the cohort, and we were to perform a SWOT analysis on each company to order the attractiveness of each company in terms of a possible partnership. On November 11, 2016 the cohort had their first check in with Ken, where he seemed impressed with our analysis and ranking of the different companies they had chosen. The cohort is now tasked with providing a more in depth analysis of the top four companies that came out of the cohort’s initial rankings of the pre-picked companies. After the in-depth analysis of the top four companies, the cohort will then present to Ken and other Cisco executives on the findings produced by the analysis. The hopes are then for Cisco to use our recommendations in the future as they seek to form new partnerships.
This project is critical to the success of the cohort as we develop our analysis and critical thinking skills as it pertains to consulting and the possible tasks consultants in the workplace may be asked to perform. This hands on experience, as well as the other two consulting projects during the program, are what makes the sMBA program stand out from other sustainability focused MBA programs, as it better prepares our cohort to be more productive and comfortable as soon as we enter the workforce following graduation.