In November, the assignments seemed daunting. One team was responsible for recommending how Sterling Talent Solutions, a global talent management company specializing in background and identity services, might globalize leadership across its international locations. A second team was assigned to find new revenue streams for Deluxe Entertainment Post Production, a global video creation and post-production company offering end-to-end services and technology.

Keep in mind, these assignments were made to students who had only completed one quarter of their graduate education in the Daniels Master of Science in Management program. With most students enrolled right out of their undergraduate education, they did not have backgrounds in business, much less years of work experience to pull from. The students might have been intimidated, but 20 weeks later, both groups from the Spring Board class impressed company executives in New York City and Los Angeles.

“I never had been a team leader except as a bartender,” said Mary-Elizabeth Breslin, the team leader for Sterling. “It was a big learning experience for me. I learned how to delegate, trusting my team to get things done, and I learned how to operate under stress.”

Team Deluxe presents to executives in Los Angeles.

Team Sterling was asked to focus on leadership teams in the company’s India and Philippines locations. They developed a 35-question survey that was sent to employees in both locations. With a 98% response rate, the team was able to analyze the data and make definitive conclusions—there was, in fact, room for improvement.

“We found that while Sterling does well across relationships in the organization, they scored low on their rewards system,” Breslin said. “We put together recommendations for them to put better reward systems in practice.”

“This was an unbelievable learning opportunity for our students,” said Craig Wallace, department head of Management. “It is exceedingly difficult to develop effective leadership training for managers who work in different countries. This was the task given to our students from Sterling Talent Solutions. Our students had to learn about different cultures and implement reward structures that might look very different from what Sterling would do in the U.S.”

Joy Barber led the Deluxe team. William Sherak (BSBA 1997) is the president of Deluxe’s post-production business unit. Overseeing more than 1,600 employees, Sherak’s team is responsible for the sound, color and special effects in the majority of new films. Barber had a tall order to grow an already successful business and brand.

“It was a big project,” she said. “I traveled to their Los Angeles facility at the end of December just to get a better feel for what they do. Then we honed in on seeing how their industry could grow, specifically what millennials might desire.”

The team offered three solutions to 12 Deluxe executives in a 90-minute meeting in Los Angeles March 19. Two solutions involved acquisitions of other new companies. One solution recommended a way to advertise new movies. (Yes, we’re being intentionally vague so Deluxe can implement these ideas if they so choose.)

“It was a really great experience,” Barber said. “Before starting this project, I didn’t know what post production was. Now when I watch a movie, I stay through the credits because I know what people in post production do and how much work goes into it.”

“I also learned so much as a leader and I’d love to get into the entertainment industry, so this was an amazing opportunity.”

Pete Lindgren, adjunct faculty and former president and CEO of Otter Products, helped teach the Spring Board course, which emphasized problem-solving.

“This was a culmination for the students to learn how to solve real business problems with a real client engagement through experiential learning,” Lindgren said. “It was intense and had the elements of performing under pressure, planning and delivering credible solutions of real value to their client. It was a rollercoaster, but both clients were very appreciative and complimentary. They did a great job.”

Wallace, who helped develop the curriculum, said the students learned exactly what he hoped.

“They learned how to lead themselves and become part of a high-functioning team,” he said. “Those are qualities that will make them successful in any career.”

Speaking of, both ladies might have job opportunities from the projects.

“Going into this program, I enjoyed the idea of management, but I didn’t expect it to be as interesting as it is,” Breslin said. “There are so many avenues this degree can offer.”