P&Q: In recent years, there have been several areas that have gained increased prominence in business school programming, including STEM, analytics, artificial intelligence, and digital disruption. How does your full-time MBA program integrate these concepts across its curriculum?
Kwon: “Michigan Ross is actively innovating our curriculum to ensure that students are prepared to lead in today’s business world. Last year’s MAP offerings, for instance, had more digital/analytics/AI-based projects than ever before.
We also have established formal offerings that students can participate in. We have a STEM-certified Specialization in Management Science, a Data and Analytics concentration, and a dual-degree with the top-ranked School of Information. In recent years, we have seen a growing interest in these opportunities.
This year, we are launching a Business+Tech initiative to better equip students with tech knowledge and skills through action-based learning and co-curricular experiences like the Datathon and Sports Tech Business Conference that debuted last year and featured leaders in sports, entertainment, and tech.
Finally, we launched the Michigan Ross FinTech Initiative in 2019. This initiative encompasses a variety of fintech courses, faculty research experts on finance and technology, and extensive outreach to alumni and industry.”
P&Q: What have you learned during the pandemic and the shift to hybrid or remote learning and how will they impact the MBA experience going forward?
Kwon: “Many courses were able to take advantage of the virtual format to invite guest speakers who would otherwise not have been able to travel to Ann Arbor in person. This includes our extremely popular “CEOs course” (read more on this course later on), which had executives from Uber, Bank of America, and Domino’s.
On a co-curricular level, we were able to hold many of our events and programs virtually and expand capacity as a result. The much-loved Leadership Crisis Challenge was one of those programs. Not only did it accommodate more students than ever, it still delivered the intensity and learning experience of the traditional in-person event.
While being on Zoom for the last 18 months was challenging, there were some benefits to virtual recruiting. More candidates from around the world were able to connect with us, and we were able to have alums from many different industries and companies join us for virtual panels. Best of all, we got to wear athleisure while working! (Is anyone besides me going to miss that?)
Going forward, I expect that we will choose the modality that best supports our goals when developing programs, hosting events, and admitting students – now that we have experience with both in-person and virtual formats.”
P&Q: Michigan Ross is known for a wealth of “Action-Based” programming like MAP and the Living Business Leadership Experience. What do you consider to be the two most unheralded action learning activities offered at Ross? What makes them so unique?
“Launched within the Business+Impact initiative in 2019, the +Impact Studio’s mission is to bring impactful ideas to life using business and design tools along with research expertise from the University of Michigan community. The work being done in the +Impact Studio is inspired by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for a sustainable future free of poverty, hunger, and inequity.
Last year, the +Impact Studio course won the Aspen Institute’s prestigious “Ideas Worth Teaching Award” which recognizes “visionary faculty and the courses that tackle society’s largest, most embedded challenges of our time.” Recently, students in the course have been developing innovations to address challenges brought on by the COVID-19 crisis and related economic landscape with a focus on the most under-resourced and vulnerable during the recession — women and minority-owned businesses and nonprofits.
There are also additional programs run by the +Impact Studio like the Founders Program, which launched this summer. The program brings impact-driven students together to nurture and launch their ideas. In the inaugural cohort, the +Impact Studio had six student-led ventures and entrepreneurs spanning equity, education, health/wellness, and entertainment. MBA student Justin Woods was one of the entrepreneurs in the program with his startup EQuity, a learning and development venture focused on advancing racial justice by developing emotional intelligence. Read more from Justin about his experience in the Studio here.
Student-Run Investment Funds
One arm of our REAL portfolio of action-based learning experiences is REAL.INVEST. At Michigan Ross, MBAs are able to manage our many student-run investment funds in all aspects of their operations. Right now, students are managing $10 million through various funds.
Our newest fund is the International Investment Fund, developed in partnership with the William Davidson Institute, and also the first of its kind. It invests in and supports small- and medium-sized enterprises in emerging economies, starting with India and expanding worldwide.
Our Social Venture Fund was the first student-led impact investing fund at a business school. Ross MBA student Katie Wheeler was quoted in a recent Financial Times article, calling the Social Venture Fund the “best action-based learning of its kind.” Katie, who hopes to work for an investor or developer in affordable housing after graduation, also shared how working for the fund is giving her tangible experience investing in financing equitable development.
Another unique fund is the Zell Founders Fund, which supports graduating or recently graduated U-M student entrepreneurs. The fund is managed by Ross students from ZLI’s four other established student-led funds. In August, the fund made a $100,000 investment in Just Enough Wines, a premium quality canned wine company started by Kaitlyn Lo, a 2021 MBA grad, who launched the company with support from ZLI while she was a student.
P&Q: What are your two most popular MBA student clubs? What are the biggest events put on by these clubs? Why do these clubs resonate so deeply with your students?
Kwon: “Since most students in the Full-Time MBA program are looking to make a career change, our professional clubs like the consulting and tech clubs are very popular because these clubs help prepare students to make transitions into those industries. However, rather than talk about those clubs (which most schools have), I’d like to highlight other more unique clubs that are not aligned with a particular industry and are gaining in popularity.
Started in January 2020, FitX is a student club at the intersection of fitness, health, wellness, innovation and technology. The club focuses on “the mental and physical fitness space — where market dynamics are changing how consumers access and/or track their health or wellness.” The club strives to provide experiential opportunities through company partnerships, expand industry knowledge, and foster community with like-minded students, alumni, and industry experts.
This year, the club organized its first FitXpo that featured executives and entrepreneurs taking on pressing health and wellness topics, including the future of wellness and fitness post-COVID and the industry’s role in increasing access to wellness.
Detroit Revitalization & Business Initiative
Another really interesting and impactful student club at Ross is Detroit Revitalization & Business Initiative, and its popularity is noteworthy given that 95% of MBAs do not have a connection to Metro Detroit. The club seeks to promote economic development in Detroit through on- and off-campus events, an annual Impact Conference, student-run consulting projects, and a mentoring program.
The club’s Impact Projects provide students the chance to partner with Detroit nonprofits to help them solve real-world business challenges. Not only do the projects support the nonprofits, but they allow students, who work in small teams, to enhance their leadership, consulting, project management, and communication skills. Mollie Harary, a 2021 MBA grad, recently wrote about her experience working on an Impact Project with Arts & Scraps, an organization dedicated to providing STEM education through hands-on learning and creative experiences throughout Southeast Michigan.”
P&Q: What is your most popular course among MBAs? What makes it so unique and so attractive to MBAs?
Kwon: “Often called the “CEO’s course,” High Stakes Leadership: Building Resilience through Relationships has long been a favorite MBA action-based learning course at Michigan Ross. Students are challenged to navigate thorny leadership crises that executives from some of the world’s most recognizable companies have faced, right in front of those very execs. That’s right, they re-enact crises by role-playing members of different stakeholder groups during simulated press conferences, with the executives watching.
Among the executives slated to participate this year: David Brandon, Chairman, Dominos; Cathy Bessant, Chief Operations and Technology Officer, Bank of America; Derek Kerr, CFO, American Airlines; Kofi Brice, CFO, General Mills; Jen Hollingsworth, COO, Lionsgate Pictures; and Ram Krishnan, Global Chief Commercial Officer, PepsiCo.”
Page 4: In-Depth Profiles of 12 Michigan Ross MBAs