Experiential learning is one of the top opportunities MBA students look for in a program. It’s often highly touted by business schools, but what does that experience really look like?
At the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management, the MBA experience connects the business world to the classroom. Under the guidance of industry experts, students earn practical experience and make an impactful difference for real-world clients.
These opportunities not only build resumes, they build relationships with companies, acting as a springboard for careers. Even amid the COVID-19 pandemic, within months after graduation from the Carlson School, 95% of the 2021 Full-Time MBA graduates were employed or had offers and 84% of 2021 Part-Time MBA graduates made a significant job change.
Greater commitment to hands-on experience
The Carlson School ingrains experiential learning opportunities into the core of the Full-Time and Management Science MBA programs by requiring students to participate in one of four Enterprise programs. Each Enterprise has dedicated faculty and makes up eight credits of the FTMBA workload–a greater commitment to hands-on learning than most business schools.
- Carlson Brand Enterprise: Students consult for a real client by analyzing and proposing marketing strategies. Past clients include Target, 3M, Polaris, Boston Scientific, and Land O’Lakes. Those companies and more have recruited students from the program.
- Carlson Ventures Enterprise: Students research, validate, and implement strategies to help entrepreneurs develop their business or help established companies investigate new ideas.
- David S. Kidwell Funds Enterprise: The Funds Enterprise is the largest student-managed investment fund in the U.S. with more than $50 million in assets. As an asset management business, students are responsible year-round for portfolio management activities.
- Carlson Consulting Enterprise: Students assess and develop new business strategies for nonprofits to Fortune 500 companies.
The work in these programs is more than just a class project as students strive to make a real-world impact. In the Carlson Consulting Enterprise, a team that included student veterans worked with Outward Bound USA to optimize the business strategy for its experiential outdoor education program for military veterans. The project united the students’ passion for helping fellow veterans with earning industry experience.
“Having the opportunity to practice putting the theory and education we receive in class into action while working with a client on a project that truly matters to them is extremely unique,” said Joe Crawford, ‘22 MBA, a Marine veteran. “Transitioning from the military without prior business experience, I knew this immersive experience was something that would be incomparable.”
Developing healthcare innovations
The Carlson School ranks among the top MBA programs for healthcare. Companies like Boston Scientific and Medtronic regularly hire graduates from the Carlson School.
In the Medical Industry Leadership Institute Valuation Lab (MILI VL) students complete market assessments for medical innovations. Since the program’s inception in 2008, more than 400 projects have been completed for clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to startups.
Over the past five years, students worked with medical tech start-up Urinary Technologies Corp. to provide essential market and product research to inform the development of a faster, more accurate diagnostic test for urinary tract infections.
“Their analysis was crucial for the development process because you want to make sure you’re creating something where there’s a demand,” said Mike Finch, the CEO of UTC. “The students focused on specific questions to determine what this product really needs to look like and what the requirements are to meet that broader market need.”
Collaboration across disciplines
The New Product Design and Business Development (NPDBD) course offers a unique cross-campus collaboration between mechanical engineering students and graduate business students to develop and commercialize a new product. For more than 20 years, students have worked on devices for companies, including 3M, Medtronic, Boston Scientific, and TORO. As emerging business leaders, MBA students learn how to understand the needs of customers and work with designers to craft a solution.
U of M Environmental Engineering Professor Paige Novak worked with Carlson School MBA students in NPDBD on a pilot project at Fulton Brewing to determine a more cost-effective way to treat wastewater from the brewing process. The students’ research helped Novak determine applications for the technology in other industries and markets. The findings also helped create the basis to help her secure a Department of Energy grant to refine the project for implementation.
Jordan Freitag, ‘21 MBA, said the NPDBD class gave him the opportunity to apply the concepts he learned throughout the MBA program – such as strategy, marketing, and finance – to a real-world project with real-life outcomes, not just theoretical cases.
“From partnering with engineers, to conducting user interviews, or attempting to master the basics of a completely new technology in a few weeks, this class and project pushed me in ways others hadn’t,” said Freitag. “Overall, this was the most influential experience I had during my MBA and taught me things I use every day in my career in product management.”
Invaluable industry experience
The hands-on learning opportunities at the Carlson School allow students to develop creative solutions to real-world problems facing corporations, nonprofits, and startups. Students enrich their skills while also gaining the experience needed to make an immediate impact in their chosen field.
“Being able to get industry experience, especially through the Enterprises, really sets Carlson apart,” said Linda Nkosi, ‘22 MBA. “I’m learning new frameworks, but it also still feels like I’m just at work. So you feel connected to your pre-MBA life while you’re still connected to your studies and building a network for post-MBA.”
The Carlson School’s deep commitment to experiential learning equips students with practical skills and industry knowledge to solve today’s problems and become the business leaders of tomorrow.