Experential Learning=Real Life Experience

Davis Hull , MBA Candidate 2013

Whew!! How quickly time flies by. It seems like just yesterday I was taking the GMAT, writing essays and filling out applications for MBA programs, now I have finished my first semester and I am ¼ done.

I made the right choice in choosing Whitman. I finished undergraduate seven years ago, so I felt I needed the personalized attention that a smaller program could offer. In working in the financial services industry for nearly five years in Houston, TX, I felt that getting an MBA in Finance would help make me well rounded and prepare me for executive level assignments later in my career, as I was a History major in Undergraduate. I needed the foundation of accounting, economics and finance courses that I had never had before.

The capstone of our year was a semester long project within our marketing and managerial concepts class that dealt with Nice N Easy Grocery Shoppes (an upstate New York chain of over 70 stores and 500 employees). All the groups were assigned different topics; ours was social media. We analyzed the use of Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and other social media sites and the relevance they had with the company in promoting awareness and sales revenue. The entire process was exhilarating. From early August when we first saw the amount of work we had to do, to doing research, and finally writing the paper and doing the presentation before the company executives. It was great to have seen something be completed that you helped to start. Just presenting in front of C-Level executives was nerve racking at first, but after it was over my confidence level jumped a little in that we were able to convey our opinions effectively and answer questions thrown at us. In reflecting on the experience, this is simply preparing us for the real world when presentations are a regular part of your job. This is one of the many reasons that express why I came to Whitman, as the school is able to balance academics with career preparation that you are able to take with you across any industry or job function.

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Acquiring New Experience

Amy McHale, Director of Experiential Learning

During the Spring 2011 semester, five MBA students from professor Tom Barkley’s, “Corporate Financial Policy & Strategy” class, developed a tangible understanding of mergers and acquisitions. This experiential learning project began after alumnus, Art Bentley, presented an opportunity for Whitman MBA students to identify and value potential targets for mergers and acquisitions. Bentley, prior to his position as Director of Business Development with H.J. Baker & Bro., Inc. (www.bakerbro.com), played an integral part in executing mergers, acquisitions, and divestitures at GE Commercial Finance for seven years.

Bentley visited the campus at the beginning of the semester and presented his company’s current situation and desire for profitable growth. To involve the students in experiential learning, Bentley asked the students to research and identify companies in the feed, fertilizer, or sulphur industries.   Each team selected five companies and developed an adjacency scoring model to determine the best opportunities to leverage their core businesses and provide growth.  The students then created a valuation model for their top target company by researching the cost of capital, financial statements, and cash flows of the selected companies.

Current MBA student, Christina Dove (’12 MBA), described this experience as challenging and rewarding. “Having the unique opportunity to participate in such a hands-on corporate finance project involving so many essential business skills- researching and ranking potential acquisition targets, compiling and analyzing financial data- provided me with a solid foundation of corporate finance concepts,” said Dove.

At the end of the semester, the students pitched their findings and recommendations to Bentley.  Collectively, the students identified twenty-nine new companies for H.J. Baker, many of whom would provide international growth opportunity.

Bentley was impressed with the students and the products that they produced. “Not only did the students help provide solutions,” said Baker, “but the quality and relevance was top-notch. They certainly exceeded my expectations in many ways.”

With the help of Dr. Barkley’s facilitation in the development of relevant solutions, combined with the effort of Barkley’s students, H.J. Baker is currently evaluating the students’ recommendations as part of their business planning and growth strategy.

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Experiential Learning to Hands on Experience

Reema Amin, MBA Candidate Class of 2012

It’s hard to believe that my internship at The Hartford is halfway done! Before I know it I will be back at Syracuse finishing up my last year of the MBA program! This summer I am working in the Digital Commerce and Customer Analytics group and have been having the best time. This group is just a little over a year old so it has been a great to see all the work that goes into developing new initiatives – something I wouldn’t normally see! I have been able to see the processes that go into putting ideas into action and I must say the thought process that goes behind the Digital Commerce side of business is much deeper than I ever would have expected! The Hartford is doing some very cool things in the digital space and the projects I am working on keep me very busy.

When looking for an internship, my goal was to gain some hands on experience and fill any knowledge gaps in the digital field that would make me a more desirable candidate once I complete the MBA program. Prior to joining the Whitman MBA program I worked in the Finance Industry, so the skills I built by working on the Sierra Nevada project in my Creating Customer Value Marketing course this past year have really helped me in my internship. Professor Lee’s Brand Management course placed a heavy emphasis on developing recommendations, which is a core part of my assignment. The dynamic case discussions that we participated in weekly in his course really helped be understand how to develop and formulate a strategy – a skill that I am applying daily in my internship!

The Syracuse MBA program has not only helped me to develop and strengthen my skills through my coursework but also allowed me to apply these skills through such experiential learning projects like that with Sierra Nevada. My work with Sierra Nevada proved to be an invaluable experience and played a large role in helping me land my internship with The Hartford!

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Making Connections with Women in Business

Amy McHale, Director of Experiential Learning

In Reema’s last posting, she spoke about the value of making connections.  Another way in which she’s made connections is through her involvement in Whitman Women in Business.    The mission of this organization is to promote women’s advancement in the global business community.  They provide activities that will enrich members’ personal and professional growth and enhance the development of women business leaders.  They’ve had some great speakers, which include:

  • Christie Hefner – CEO, Playboy Enterprises and advisory board member of the study A Women’s Nation.
  • Darlene DeRemer –Partner, Grail Partners
  • Connie Thanasoulis –Partner, SixFigureStart
  • Nancy Martin, GE executive and Founder of GE’s Women’s Network
  • Kristie Hall – Investment Research and Development Analyst, Fidelity Investments


Whitman Alumnae Lunch with Whitman Women in Business

Goldman Sachs, one of the world’s leading financial institutions, hosted the Whitman Women in Business (WWiB) on April 15th in New York City.   Nineteen members of the student organization traveled to NYC to learn about working at Goldman Sachs, network with women business leaders and visit the firm’s headquarters.  The group kicked off the day with an Advance Networking Skills Workshop offered by executive career coaching firm SixFigureStart, followed by a Whitman Alumnae networking lunch in NYC’s Financial District.  This extraordinary opportunity was made possible by Allison Weingarten ’01 BS, Vice President of Commodities Operations.

Whitman seeks to attract a diverse student body, and this summer will participate with the American Association of University Women (AAUW) in AAUW’s Graduate School Fair being held in conjunction with its National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL) .

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Making Connections

Reema Amin, MBA Candidate 2012

With final examinations just a week away my first year as an MBA student here at Syracuse is coming to an end quickly! I still remember packing my bags back home in California, and gearing up for this life changing experience like it was yesterday.  The relationships and experiences that have made up my year are something that I will take with me and remember for a very long time. 

In the last few weeks I have been able to meet and connect with amazing Syracuse University / Whitman School of Management Alumni! One of the greatest things about Syracuse is our alumni are always willing to give back to the school and their Orange Pride runs deep! Just last week I found out through Twitter and our Whitman Career Center that the Social Media Marketing Manager from Cisco, Deanna Govoni (’02) was going to be speaking on campus on none other than one of my favorite topics – Social Media! I connected with SU’s fabulous Alumni Programs Coordinator, Kim Brown, and she invited me to lunch with her, Deanna, and a couple of other people.  It was great meeting Deanna, hearing about her experiences while at SU and Cisco, and picking her brain about Social Media. Like I mentioned in my last post I have been gaining a vast amount of experience this year by working on Social Media projects for Sierra Nevada and Steiner Sports through our Experiential Learning Program so this one-on-one interaction with Deanna really helped me confirm that the Digital Commerce field is where I want to end up after I complete the program next year! She also gave two stellar speeches at the highly ranked iSchool on the impact of Social Media and Technology in your organization! You can find out more about her time here at SU here and follow her on twitter too! (@deanna24). Deanna also spoke about the importance and power of networking – which I have learned first-hand is incredible, since I entered the program! Networking and having the opportunity to connect with such down-to-earth and intelligent alumni who are leaders in their organizations, like Deanna is just one perk of attending SU and Whitman! 

I can’t wait to see what other alumni the school will invite back next year!

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Social Media: A Hands-On Experience

Reema Amin, MBA Candidate 2012

It’s really hard to believe that my second semester as an MBA candidate is in full swing. Time flies when there are so many different things going on daily in business school.  Right now I’m getting ready to head across campus to the top ranked Newhouse School of Public Communications to work on a marketing initiative with Steiner Sports, the country’s number one sports memorabilia company.  This semester I’m working on how to reach a new market segment through Four Square– the widely popular and emerging social network  “Check-In” application.  So far my teammates and I are in the initial brainstorming and research stage but it’s looking to turn out great.

I’m really excited to work with Steiner Sports again! Last semester, a couple of my Whitman classmates and I worked together with the Newhouse students to launch a social media campaign for their holiday advertising.  Our ideas consisted of two different YouTube videos with the theme being “Christmas Game Face”, marketing through Twitter, and an interactive Java enabled info-graphic.  We were able to present our recommendations to the executive board and they used them on their website during the holidays.  Working with Steiner Sports really gave me the opportunity to take the knowledge I had been learning throughout the semester in my “Creating Customer Value” marketing class and translate it into a viral social media campaign.  This opportunity was especially exciting for me because I hope to pursue a career in the sports marketing arena.  My summer internship search is under way right now and I’m hoping that this experiential learning project will help give me the upper hand and help me land an internship somewhere in the sports industry!

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From experience to interviews

Laura Williams, MBA Candidate 2011

The job search and interview process is in full swing! For the past few months I have been going through rounds of interviews at various companies and my experiential learning has seemed to give me an edge.

We just completed a new project with Kodak conducting market research and analysis. This was a great way for me to go more in-depth into an area of marketing that I wasn’t too familiar with before… and has been paying off already.

This past week I interviewed for a market research position and was asked to spend the majority of my time explaining my work with Kodak. The interviewer was so excited that I had gained this important real life experience with such a reputable company. During other conversations employers seem to be impressed at the breadth of marketing knowledge these experiences have given me – something that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.  

Hopefully something good will come out of these interviews and a job offer will be around the corner!

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