Pairing first-year students and nonprofits in an innovative capstone course builds relevant skills, creates organization value, and addresses real-world challenges.
Just as employers expect MBA graduates to add value to their organizations from day one, today’s MBA students also expect to start preparing for future career success on their first day on campus. The need to make an immediate connection between classroom and career helped motivate the MBA Program Committee at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, College of Business Administration to make an applied-learning elective mandatory for all MBA students in 2011.
When the committee considered options for 2010-11 curriculum design and innovation, the faculty took a hard look at the MBA core curriculum. While the university’s MBA program, founded in 1966, was one of the first MBA programs to implement an integrated curriculum and has been a leader in delivery of applied learning, the faculty understood that maintaining the status quo wasn’t enough to continue to attract top talent. Building a competitive advantage would require retooling the first-year MBA core curriculum to better meet the needs and expectations of highly motivated students, most of whom enter the university’s 17-month, full-time MBA program with prior work experience.
Specifically, the MBA Program Committee wanted to ensure that the program’s foundational building blocks better balanced depth of relevant content, application of content in integrated and holistic real-world situations, and the development of professional skills that would enable UT MBAs to succeed in their careers. A key step in this process was adding a comprehensive and career-focused first-year capstone course. The ideal course would be one that synthesized first-year learning, provided students with the opportunity to apply what they had learned in a real-world situation, and empowered students to grow and develop as well-rounded individuals and leaders.
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