In Fall Quarter 2016, Daniels students enrolled in the Professional MBA’s Capstone course teamed up with Point B consultants to help five Colorado nonprofits grow their organizations and expand their reach. The consultants acted as mentors to the students as they worked with the client organizations.
Prior to the beginning of the quarter, student teams identified the nonprofits with which they wanted to work. They spent the first couple weeks of the term meeting with their client organizations to clarify their most pressing issues and biggest opportunities. Then the students set about developing recommendations that addressed the issues and assisted their nonprofits in taking full advantage of the opportunities.
“The Daniels mission is ‘To benefit the public good by developing business pioneers through impactful scholarship, challenge-driven education and lifelong learning,’” said Bud Bilanich, adjunct professor of management and PMBA Capstone instructor.
Accordng to Bilanich, the PMBA Capstone course epitomizes challenge-driven education. In 10 short weeks students identify issues and opportunities facing a nonprofit and then prepare a set of recommendations for addressing those issues and opportunities. The issues are complex; and PMBA students, who work full time and attend class in the evening, have a huge time management challenge, and must draw on concepts and skills learned at Daniels and through their past experiences.
That’s where Point B comes in. The management consulting firm provided Denver-based mentors for each of the Capstone teams. The mentors are working consultants who are highly skilled in identifying problems and opportunities, and recommending strategic solutions. Jace Wirth, a student who worked with the youth skiing program, Lake Eldora Racing Team, said, “Our mentor’s support and guidance was invaluable. He really helped us cut through the clutter and focus on the important issues.”
Todd Krier (MBA 2004), senior director at Point B, managed the mentors. “We focused on striking a balance,” he said. “While this is a learning experience for the PMBA students, we wanted the nonprofits to get full value out of the engagement. We wanted to be sure that the students put together a quality product that would make a real difference for their client nonprofits.”
That was certainly the case for I AM Academy, part of HOPE Online Learning Academy Co-Op, a nonprofit Douglas County School District K-12 charter school. The students worked with I AM Academy on issues of transportation, finance and marketing, developing solutions that were easily implementable and had an immediate impact.
“We’re so thankful for what the students did for us,” said I AM Academy Director, Anthony Watson. “They transformed our operation.”
Students got a lot more from the experience than just a grade. “I’ve never done anything like this before, and it’s had a huge impact on me,” said student Erik Decherd, Finance and Development Manager at commercial real estate developer SDA Inc., and leader of the I AM Academy Capstone team. “It opened my eyes not only to the underdog, but to what I AM Academy is doing.”
According to Bilanich, many students stay involved with their nonprofit clients after they finish the course and graduate. “We’re doing something special here. Helping our community while educating our students,” he said.
In addition to the Lake Eldora Racing Team and I AM Academy, capstone student groups also worked with the John Austin Cheley Foundation, Camp Wapiyapi and the Pagaba Foundation.
The PMBA Capstone course is taught every fall and spring. If you know of a nonprofit that could benefit from participating, please contact Bilanich at Bud.Bilanich@du.edu.