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MBA students solve problems, pitch business ideas during BroadWeek

Full-Time MBA students in Michigan State University’s Broad College of Business came together for the BroadWeek intensive three-day experiential learning programs October 16–18. A BroadWeek experience falls in the middle of each semester of the two-year MBA program, drawing students together to do practical work on a specified topic.

“BroadWeeks provide exceptional value to our students in terms of getting hands-on experience to develop critically important skills that complement their academic coursework,” said Sanjay Gupta, associate dean for MBA and professional master’s programs. “Students have the opportunity to reframe what they’ve learned across functional areas, to understand the interdependencies among the different areas, and to apply those concepts in a new context.”

The first-year students participated in BroadWeek I, titled “Faster, Smarter, Better.” The course focused on team-based problem-solving skills and their application to business cases. Faculty lead Glenn Omura, associate professor of marketing, provided an intensive and detailed investigation of how knowledge is acquired and applied to solving problems in a variety of contexts, rooted in well-known theoretical frameworks. Students then used these investigative techniques in a number of focused problem-solving exercises throughout the day’s session.

Derek Daly with Broad first-year MBA students attending BroadWeek I: Faster, Smarter, Better.
Derek Daly (front center) with Broad first-year MBA students attending BroadWeek I: Faster, Smarter, Better.

A motivational speech by Derek Daly, a Hall of Fame race car driver who was ranked in the top 10 in Formula One racing, about applying the concepts of “faster, smarter, better” on the race course led into a case study developed by Omura and John Amann (MBA ’14) on Ford Racing’s investment in NASCAR. The case’s level of detail allowed for a variety of potential solutions. Students considered this case in teams, developing presentations for an intensive, 24-hour capstone case competition. A number of alumni and corporate judges, some of whom were also Ford Motor Company employees, facilitated the judging of the competition.

Exercises like these provide students with opportunities to take risks and make informed decisions on complex problems, preparing them for an executive environment where the ability to make challenging decisions quickly is critical, noted Wayne Hutchinson, director of academic programs and student services for the Full-Time MBA Program.

“The first year of the MBA program is designed around developing a robust collection of business skills throughout the core curriculum,” he said. “BroadWeek I is an opportunity to step outside those smaller pieces and see the bigger picture, for students to bring all their skills to bear to solve a new problem.”

Second-year MBA students took part in BroadWeek III, titled “Entrepreneurship and Innovation.” Forrest Carter, associate professor of marketing and faculty lead for BroadWeek III, organized visits to several business incubators to interact with successful entrepreneurs and raise awareness of available support in the state of Michigan. These included:

  • Start Garden in Grand Rapids—a $15 million startup hub and investment incubator that invests $5,000 each week in a new idea that could potentially grow into an international business
  • Bizdom in Detroit—the startup hub and investment incubator founded by serial entrepreneur Dan Gilbert (BA ’83 Telecommunication)
  • Spartan Innovations in East Lansing—MSU’s initiative to help turn university innovations into successful Michigan businesses

As they learned about these opportunities, students were presented with a challenge: in barely 24 hours, they were to craft and present a three-minute pitch for a business idea—any kind of idea, any kind of pitch, to be presented using any resources available to them. Broad College faculty and alumni served as judges for this business pitch competition, with some alumni traveling from as far away as California to participate in this process.

“The judges were surprised and impressed at the level of detail and enthusiasm of the pitches,” said Hutchison. “The ideas were creative, yet attainable. Ultimately, the energy our students showed in their pitches was inspiring to the whole group. Their level of commitment to a signature moment in the program says a lot about their potential as future business leaders and executives.”

This BroadWeek experience concluded with an evening keynote presentation from Omari and Kavita Bouknight (both BA ’99 Supply Chain Management), two alumni who are in the process of launching a technology startup in the San Francisco Bay area. The Bouknights shared what they have been learning in the midst of the process of starting a new business and gave some perspective on what the entrepreneur life is really like.

BroadWeek immersions in the spring semester will touch on global business and leadership. These courses will give Full-Time MBA students additional high-quality opportunities to apply and enhance their problem-solving, leadership, and teambuilding skills—core elements of the program.


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