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Professional MBA Students Consult with Local Nonprofits and Socially Responsible Companies

biznotes-pmba-storyLearning by doing is one of the mantras of the Daniels College of Business. Through hands-on projects, taking part in real-world consulting engagements with companies around the world and more, students gain the rich experience they need to make an immediate impact on the communities where they live and work.

One great example is the Professional MBA (PMBA) program capstone project. Each new cohort divides into small teams of students and selects an organization to work with on an ongoing issue or problem. Students collect facts, analyze the organization’s business processes and more — then propose potential solutions. They present their ideas along with a report to a panel composed of the organization’s representatives and Daniels faculty.

Identifying Organizations Dedicated to Advancing Social Issues

This year, PMBA students were strongly encouraged to select a nonprofit or other socially responsible organization (as opposed to just any business) for their capstone project. According to Dr. George Simon, academic programs director for the Professional MBA program, the idea is to assist organizations in need, while giving students a meaningful, rich academic learning experience.

“Nonprofits often operate on small budgets and do not have the financial resources of larger for-profit companies,” says Dr. Simon. “This is a great example of extending the Daniels mission into our community by giving back in a way that truly matters.”

Nonprofits “Pitching” Their Organizations to Students

For the first time ever, the PMBA program hosted a Pitch Night in December 2013, to which local nonprofits and other organizations were invited to explain their mission and current areas where student assistance could be useful. More than a dozen organizations participated, with 10 organizations being selected by PMBA student teams for their capstone projects. Most of the organizations were nonprofits.

Adjunct Professors, Franco Marini and Karen Loeb served as capstone project facilitators in the Winter Quarter. “The capstone project provides a unique opportunity for students to use their course learnings and experiences to address significant issues for a real organization in our local community,” says Dr. Loeb, who brings 25 years of technical-management experience with Bell Laboratories to Daniels. “Students’ work reflects the knowledge they have acquired in multiple business disciplines and emphasizes areas such as innovation, ethics and sustainability.”

Four PMBA Teams Receive Awards in May

Twice a year at least one team from each PMBA cohort is selected for the PMBA Capstone Project Award. The winning students from PMBA cohorts 10, 11 and 12 (two winners were selected in a tie) will be honored at a Working Professionals Programs awards ceremony in May. Those students include:

  • Caleb Douglas, Matt Feldman, John Frey, Adeeb Khan and Adam Strunk (Cohort 12) for their work with Mile High United Way, a Denver-based nonprofit that focuses on early childhood development and literacy, education, youth development and family income and stability. Mile High United Way sought to identify strategies to become an economic driver for the Curtis Park neighborhood, where its new offices will soon relocate. Curtis Park is one of the poorest areas in the city with struggling and underperforming schools. Through its 10-week research phase, the Daniels PMBA student team identified a number of strategies to bring needed change to the area and give the area a new identity that fosters student and community success.
  • H. Fisk Biggar, Brooks Cochran, Myrna Rodriguez, Colin Shaw, Josh Wilson and Ivy Yi (Cohort 12) for their work with Gannon Creek Trading Company, a startup outdoor furniture company that distributes furniture manufactured by Kish-Gon-Dug Manufacturing, operated by the Naicatchewenin First Nation in Ontario, Canada. Gannon Creek has struggled to produce enough sales to continue operating and providing high-quality jobs to residents in the remote region. The Daniels students laid out a plan for Gannon Creek to identify and capitalize on operational efficiencies, and also better track its finances.
  • Fawn Romero, Anupama Ginjupalli, Brian Gallagher, Matthew Hannam and Stacy Moore (Cohort 11) for their work with Project Sanctuary, a nonprofit that takes military families on outdoor, therapeutic retreats. With a long wait list, the organization has struggled to serve more families in need. The Daniels student team completed a value chain analysis and forecasting model, and made recommendations for growth, technology, and sales and marketing that will help Project Sanctuary become more efficient, put its focus toward its most important activities and reduce its backlog by 2018.
  • Amy Bruno, John Fowler, Genie Hamilton and Matt Roemer (Cohort 10) for their work with Coda Coffee Company. This for-profit environmentally conscious coffee roasting company had not fully developed its branding strategy, and needed to address weaknesses in its employment model, ERP systems integration and baseline business strategies. The Daniels student team addressed each of these operating issues, proposed solutions and an implementation plan that will enable the organization to address its operating challenges, and exploit its market opportunities effectively .

“These students are first-rate professionals — bright, compassionate, knowledgeable — and their recommendations contributed significantly to each organization,” says Marini, who serves as president of Peak Empowerment outside of Daniels. “It’s great to see our students in action as they support our community. They represent Daniels well, and their work makes a difference in people’s lives.”

Learn more about the part-time Professional MBA program at: