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Summer immersion program connects top business students from India with Broad College expertise

By Omar Sofradzija

The Eli Broad College of Business and the SP Jain Institute of Management and Research (SPJIMR) are two schools that share many commonalities: a focus on tomorrow’s business, a global awareness, and a desire to make the world a better place.

What they don’t share is a continent: SPJIMR is based in Mumbai, India, a literal half-a-world away from the Broad College on Michigan State University’s campus in East Lansing.

But distance hasn’t stopped the two schools from working together the past eight years, most recently coming together for a pair of three-week immersion programs this summer with Indian students coming from one of India’s most recognized business schools to MSU’s Broad College of Business to study with its world-renowned supply chain management program.

Eight years ago, SPJIMR was specifically considered a key partner of the Broad College of Business on the Indian sub-continent because “they’re incredibly practical, they’re pragmatic, and their values are very close to our values,” said Keith Bezant Niblett, assistant director of customized and international programs for Broad College Executive Development Programs, who helped birth the collaboration and serves as program director of both the SPJIMR immersion programs at MSU.

“This whole notion of actually serving the community, (where SP Jain students are) going out for at least eight weeks of their initial academic year to actually work alongside people in the countryside or in slums to develop projects to improve the well-being of the communities they work with, is very near and dear to the way in which MSU and our College of Business actually works through our well-developed outreach activities to businesses and communities,” Niblett said. “There is, therefore a great deal of overlap in ethos and in values.”

MSU committed to a global presence

The partnership fits Michigan State University’s aspirations to be a good neighbor to the world.

“SP Jain is one of the leading business schools in India. They are highly selective in terms of the student body that they admit into their programs. It’s already the creamiest of the cream of the crop,” said Eli and Edythe L. Broad Dean Sanjay Gupta of the Broad College of Business. “What we have is this incredible opportunity to partner with this strong business school in this tremendously exciting and fast-growing economy. To be able to share what we have learned and what our expertise is, as well as learn from them about what makes that economy tick, what makes that economy so strong, what are the issues of importance within that context, this is a great learning experience for our faculty and staff that we can then incorporate back in our classrooms and our students’ experiences as well.”

The focus of the first of the pair of immersion programs – conducted June 24–July 14 with SPJIMR’s PGDM (equivalent of the full-time MBA) cohort of 64 students – on innovation, analytics, and sustainability was done through a mix of classroom work, organization visits, and project development and delivery by working with a group of senior mentors from a leading U.S. corporate staffing firm, Kelly Services, headquartered in suburban Detroit.

“These students are visiting at a strategic time in their two-year curriculum. Through their immersion at MSU, these students understand the unique nature of integrated supply chain and develop a perspective on how the future of supply chain is likely to evolve,” said Sriram Narayanan, associate professor of supply chain management and academic director of the PGDM immersion program here. “The immersion focuses on three key elements of a futuristic supply chain environment — sustainability, innovation and data analytics.”

“The experience has active learning components in working on a real-life project with Kelly Services that focuses on solving supply chain problems drawn from real-life data,” Narayanan said. “This experience exposes the students to a very pragmatic experience to train them to find solutions to leading-edge problems that they are sure to encounter in their managerial lives when they rejoin the workforce in India and potentially around the world.”

The second immersion program for a cohort of 55 students from SPJIMR’s PGPM program (equivalent of the Executive MBA) has very different objectives. This program, which runs July 15–Aug. 4 is early on in their planned curriculum, and therefore the focus is working with this group to gain a thorough understanding of MSU’s world-leading view of the integrated supply chain and the key drivers within the global supply chain. This program uses a blended learning style, mixing online material with faculty keynote sessions, company visits, simulations, and experiential learning.

The Broad College is one of four North American schools that partner in this way with SPJIMR; the others are Cornell University, the University of Texas at Austin, and Carnegie Mellon University.

“Over the last eight years of the relationship, our College of Business and SPJIMR have created a number of important relationships at leadership, faculty, and staff levels, which continue to endure and grow. This creates a number of opportunities to work on joint activities that are becoming highly important for both institutions,” Niblett said. “All of those activities mean we are looking at an enduring relationship that will survive many years into the future.”

India is ‘a second home’ for MSU

Given India’s huge population and economic growth, the relationship is well-placed.

“I think India as a subcontinent is probably one of the most exciting places to be in the world right now. It has one of the largest year-on-year economic growth(s) in the world, and it could well become a superpower intellectually as well as economically over the next 10, 15, 20 years. I think it’s important that we’re there,” Niblett said. “Plus, actually I feel that many of us now think of SPJIMR as a second home in India. When we go to India, SPJIMR make(s) us feel very welcomed. Increasingly, our joint network is flourishing not just within our College of Business, but across the MSU leadership and many of the MSU colleges. And it therefore becomes a very constructive and very interesting relationship, which we’re constantly mutually leveraging in many ways.”

Sesha Iyer, the attending senior faculty member from SPJIMR, said his students get many benefits from the relationship with the Broad College of Business.

“We are giving opportunities for all students to get immersed coming to the USA, to become familiar with all the things here,” Iyer said. “The examples that the professors give here are more research-based and also more practically applicable, and the cases are brought by their consultancy (in active research programs) rather than older cases,” as used in India. “That also gives a feel of the real things that are going on,” which will have a direct impact on business in India.

A big draw for students is MSU’s status. “The brand, they give it very great significance,” Iyer said. “The second one is the teaching method, coming more from research and practical” standpoint. “Third, it is the confidence going abroad, coming abroad,” and working with American companies like Kelly Services, a global corporate staffing firm.

Win-win for global students, local business

“These students are very smart, very bright. And they can actually get a very complex project done in three weeks. Therefore, these groups are more or less in demand by the companies who are aware that they are here,” Niblett said. “Kelly Services has been admirable in the last three years because they provided us with live data from their own data bases … which enables them to do quite complex projects, and this year, the project core is reimagining the way in which Kelly will do business with their major customers in the future, in terms of supplying them with staffing often from the bottom to the top of the organization.”

“Through this process, not only all of the student project teams have worked alongside senior managers of Kelly Services, have interviewed Kelly Services suppliers, have access to Kelly Services ‘live data’ and have worked with the MSU (Gast) Business Library to collect vital secondary key driver data on five of Kelly Services’ largest U.S.-based blue-chip customers,” Niblett said.

Thomas Tisdale, vice president for global talent supply chain analytics for Kelly, said this is the company’s third year of participation with the SP Jain immersion program. While the company is happy to help, they get practical benefits from their involvement.

“We want to bring knowledge transfer to the next generation of minds into the workforce. Secondly, we don’t expect major transformational breakthroughs, but small nuggets of thought and fresh ideas that we can assess, operationalizing (through Kelly and its key suppliers and customers) or productizing into our business,” Tisdale said. “In the past, we built a product set from learnings of this exercise, developed optimization strategies, and built correlation/predictive models from previous nuggets.”

“The mutual benefits have been tremendous and rewarding, recognized in the C-suite, including the CEO. We are excited to work with the SPJIMR students to develop their education and likewise observing the outcomes,” Tisdale said. “We look forward to further developing a relationship with SPJIMR beyond this program, including internships with data analysis.”


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