Before students in Chatham’s MBA program can graduate, they must face one of the most challenging courses offered by the Business and Entrepreneurship Department: the Business Consulting Capstone course. This course provides students with hands-on consulting opportunities and serves as the culminating experience in the MBA program. In Fall 2016, the class was facilitated by Professor Robert Graham who is connecting three clients with three teams of MBA student consultants.
Professor Graham has facilitated the course for two years. “The Fall semester saw the completion of another successful Business Consulting Capstone course within the B&E Department. This course is all about creating value — value for the MBA students to be able to apply their learning from the MBA program, and value to the business clients who receive consulting advice from their MBA student-teams over the 14-week long semester. This program is a coordinated effort between the B&E Department and Chatham’s Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship. Woman-owned businesses in the Pittsburgh area are selected to be clients for the semester. They identify actual business issues, challenges, or roadblocks they are experiencing that impact the progress and development of their businesses. Student teams work with their clients throughout the semester to conduct research, analyze results, and present conclusions and recommendations that favorably affect the performance of the business.”
Throughout the semester, students develop professional consulting skills by working with the professor and clients to enhance working relationships. Typical businesses in the program have come from the manufacturing, healthcare, consulting services, accounting, and insurance fields. Typical projects focus on financial, organizational, and marketing topics critical to the success of a business. As part of the Fall 2016 course, students worked with three different types of clients: a self-published children’s book author, an information technology consulting company, and a communication services company. Students also learned how to analyze business problems, use project management tools, and work in groups.
On top of that, this past semester, Professor Graham challenged his students to go out of their comfort zones to improve their public speaking skills as part of a collaboration with the organization Toastmasters. Toastmasters is a non-profit organization that provides support and learning experiences with the main focus on communication and leadership skills, improving self-confidence and personal growth. Furthermore, students attended valuable lectures from recognized consultants who provided valuable insight into potential careers about how to deal with a difficult situation and how to overcome problems and work under pressure.
Business Consulting Capstone student, Aminata Dieng, MBA ’16, stated that she thought, “the capstone class was really great in helping us put into practice all the theories we have learned throughout the course of this program. It was hands-on and a really pleasant learning experience.”
Another student, Becky Borello, MBA ’16, shared that “the Capstone has provided an excellent low-stakes, real-life consulting experience. Throughout this class, we learned and experienced the benefits of a good consulting relationship, and the perils of when consulting goes bad. It allowed different groups of people to work together on a variety of problems. It really helped identify leaders, team players, and the fact that everyone has an area of expertise.”
“The Fall semester of the Capstone program provided excellent results for the participating businesses”, said Professor Robert Graham. Professor Graham also added, “The variety of businesses, together with the diversity of the MBA students created an environment where a significant value was created for everyone involved. It has been a pleasure to be a part of the Fall semester Capstone program.”
Chatham’s MBA Business Consulting Capstone provides a valuable experience in consulting with the opportunity to develop relationship skills and business analytical skills. Whether MBA students will pursue a career in consulting or not, the takeaways from this class can apply to any field. Read about past Business Consulting Capstone classes here and here.