In the final stages of completing their degrees, MBA+ students enroll in a Business Project, a final practicum in which skills learned in the classroom are applied to real world situations. Businesses and non-profit organizations hire Business Project teams of MBA+ students to address a challenge within the company. For Alison Polenz '92, VP of Marketing at Hanna Andersson and PSU business alumna, that challenge was designing a loyalty program for the children's clothing company. For 18 weeks, the Hanna Andersson MBA+ team conducted a survey of Hanna customers, did an in depth analysis of what other children clothing stores were doing and developed a unique proposal for a Hanna loyalty program. The team provided their recommendations in a final report and defended them to CEO Phil Iosca, Alison and the management team.
"Working with the PSU team was rewarding," said Alison Polenz ‘92. "Each student brought an outside perspective to the problem we were tackling. They each referenced their own work, life and school experiences, furthering the richness of the output. Their final presentation was on par with what I would expect from an outside consulting service - top notch. Being a PSU alum myself, it was a full circle moment to work with PSU students."
Cedar Miller, Business Project teammate, agrees that the Hanna Andersson business project elevated his education and solidified classroom learning: "Working with real people to solve real problems was challenging and a big time commitment, but was also the most interesting, rewarding and fulfilling part of the program. We all spent a lot of time on the project because we were much more concerned with doing a good job and impressing the Hanna team than we ever were about grades or tests."
"Throughout the months we worked with Hanna Andersson, ongoing changes in the retail environment forced us to re-think our strategy at every point and make changes when appropriate," said Kimiko Kotvik, MBA+ student on the Hanna Andersson team. "We were able to develop a working relationship with the Hanna team in the process and receive the feedback we needed along the way to make sure what we ended up with was appropriate. It was a great opportunity to work on a real-life challenge."
More than 100 organizations, small and large, have sponsored an MBA+ Business Project team, including industry giants Nike and Columbia Sportswear Company, non-profit organizations like Oregon Public Broadcasting, and small companies such as HairM and Sunlight Solar. Their projects represent the full range of issues and challenges facing today's business leaders, and students honed skills through hours of analysis and strategic thinking. Since the students work in teams of three to four and each student commits 200 or more hours to a project, the sponsoring companies can expect the equivalent of four months work on their particular project. The average estimated value to the client is $85,000.