This is an exciting week at Ross as we kick off our 2014 MAP team projects. That means that more than 450 first-year MBAs are heading out to tackle real business challenges with nearly 90 companies and organizations in more than 20 different countries. They will spend seven weeks working side-by-side with some of the top practitioners in fields such as marketing, healthcare, manufacturing, and nonprofit management. Companies and organizations including Amazon, Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, Kraft, ICIC Bank, World Wildlife Fund, and many more around the world will put our teams to work on projects from new market entry to digital banking to supply chain strategy.
The MAP experience integrates and applies the lessons our students have learned in the classroom and is a hallmark of our focus on action-based learning.
Each year MAP proves to be one of the most exciting times of our MBA students’ experience. It’s also one of the most challenging, and is meant to be. Our goal is to offer our students real-world, hands-on experiences that will empower them to hit the ground running in the job market and their careers.
And while MAP remains one of the most intensive and extensive action-based learning programs of its kind, it’s just one of many ways we build educational experiences for our students that link classroom learning directly with the world of practice.
Other examples include our Master of Supply Chain Management Program.
The Ross MSCM connects students with paid, team-based summer internships through the Tauber Institute for Global Operations, to provide in-company experience with the school’s corporate partners. Student teams work with faculty to deliver a multidisciplinary solution to a real business challenge facing the organization. Projects last 14 weeks and range from strategic analysis and supply chain audits to supply chain design issues and distribution challenges.
Leadership skills are also best developed through action.
At Ross, MBA students gain great first-hand experience with action-based leadership development, thanks in large part to the annual RLI Impact Challenge, which immerses our students in action-based learning during their first week at Ross. This year’s challenge had our students spending four days to concept, create, and host a back-to-school fair for 3,000 Detroit-area school children. You can read more about this past Impact Challenge to see how we’ve combined hands-on learning with an opportunity to give back to the Detroit community each year.
For students who want careers in investing, there are several ways to gain experience at Ross.
One such method is the Maize and Blue Fund, which is managed by undergraduate and graduate students. Students are divided into senior and junior analysts, and they choose stocks for the $300,000 fund. They then pitch their stock choices to the class. The class votes on the stock and if the vote passes, then the stock is placed into the fund, which had a 39 percent return last year.
Ross is also home to the No. 1-ranked entrepreneurial education program.
Students can learn the ins and outs of venture capital investing through the Wolverine Venture Fund, which was the first student-led venture fund of its kind in the country and is now complemented by the Zell Lurie Commercialization Fund (focusing on very early stage, pre-seed investments) and the Social Venture Fund (focusing on investments in for-profit ventures with a social mission). Together these three student-run funds have $6.5 million under management and deliver returns that are comparable to the top quartile of professionally managed funds.
We are also committed to giving our students latitude to take action on their own.
Student clubs organize major conferences such as the the Asia Business Conference, the Black Business Student Association Conference, the Detroit Revitalization and Business Conference, the India Business Conference, Net Impact, and the Women’s Business Conference. Events like these are excellent examples of how we empower our students to take action and build their own path to success while networking with each other as well as faculty and corporate leaders in their fields.
And although we pioneered action-based learning for business school students, each year we strive to add new elements. For example, RLI SpotLight, a new addition to the Ross Leadership Initiative, is a crisis leadership challenge that will require our undergraduate students to navigate a dynamic corporate crisis in a team-based structure. Leadership skills will be tested as teams attempt to lessen the financial, ethical, and public damage to the company before facing a mock press conference where finalists will defend their decisions to a panel of judges. In addition to the chance to win the top prize, students will benefit from a crisis leadership workshop, extensive feedback to help hone essential management skills, and an opportunity to network with corporate recruiters.
These are just a few of the many ways we create opportunities for our student to apply the knowledge gained in class to real situations that organizations are facing in real time. We firmly believe that education is enhanced by the opportunity to regularly experience how classroom knowledge can be put into practice, and that learning by doing helps set our graduates apart from the competition and prepares them for a lifetime of success.