Broad MBA students have fun while collaborating.

There’s no question about it: hands-on experience is vital for student learning. From designing the Minskoff Pavilion as a collaborative learning space on campus to engaging and partnering with businesses off campus, the Broad College at MSU has shown its commitment to providing students at all levels with such applied learning opportunities — or, to use a baseball metaphor, at-bats.

Thanks to the extraordinary support of alumnus Sanjay Baskaran (MBA Marketing ’99) and his wife, Linda Chon, the Broad College will advance the experiential learning aspects of the MBA program. They’ve gifted $250,000 to directly support MBA students.

As an MBA graduate, Baskaran is giving back to the program that was a key part of his own career path. He has been a leader for companies such as Amazon and TaxAct, and today, he’s the CEO of One Technologies. He has also been a speaker in the Pung Speaker Series and shared advice with current MBA students.

Baskaran’s gift has had an immediate impact, helping to fund a corporate partnership and on-site learning experience for MBA students earlier this month.

Handsome Associate Creative Director of Experience Design and Strategy Travis Rimel speaks to the group about research techniques and focus groups.

He connected the Broad College with Handsome, a digital experience design agency, for an exciting field opportunity. “I knew the Handsome team would be a perfect resource for MSU and would be able to give students an inside look at their methodology, as well as a hands-on understanding of how their holistic approach to innovation works in practice,” he said.

Handsome welcomed MBA students and faculty for a four-day series of workshops and in-the-field activities in Austin, Texas. The workshops were led by Handsome CEO and co-founder John Roescher, COO Jennifer Allen and associate creative director of strategy and experience design Travis Rimel.

“Human-centered design and innovation is something everyone in business should be practicing,” Roescher said. “If we can help introduce methodologies like ours to students and the future innovators of our world, we’ll do it every chance we can.”

The students worked alongside Handsome’s executives during the workshops.

Nine second-year MBA students learned how to define market opportunities, build research protocols for contextual inquiry and in-field research, design prototypes based on qualitative and quantitative insights, empathetically interview and observe people in the field and then create and present a business case based on their lessons and research.

“The overall experience was extremely positive,” Ayla Olvera (MBA ’20) said. “This experience, and in particular the process, is something I look forward to sharing with my teams in the future.”

The students were joined by Richard Saouma, associate dean for MBA, EMBA and professional master’s programs; Ken Szymusiak, managing director for the Burgess Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation; and Travis Corrigan, a veteran operator and expert in digital product management from Los Angeles who has been flying to East Lansing every week to provide training and scaffolding for MBA students.

The group of Broad students and faculty were able to collaborate with Handsome thanks to support from an alumnus.

“Sanjay Baskaran has selflessly opened countless doors for our MBA students, from enabling special courses to personally delivering Broad MBA resumes to senior tech leaders — his kindness is incredibly humbling,” Saouma said.

“Handsome had the courage to pull us in behind the curtain, onboard us to their proven processes and hold Broad MBA students accountable for the same deliverables with gentle nudges along the way. Bridging the knowledge–doing gap is nearly impossible in a traditional classroom, which is why we are infinitely grateful for any and all opportunities that afford students safe, real-world at-bats where they can develop the muscle memory to confidently deliver everything they’ve learned in the classroom to the unbounded opportunities awaiting them beyond Broad.”