Graduate students from UT’s Haslam College of Business contributed 4,624 consulting hours to area nonprofit and governmental organizations this semester.
The students, who are pursuing a Master of Business Administration, worked free of charge as part of the college’s Innovation in Practice capstone course. After learning a consulting process in class, they formed fourteen teams and met with clients each week to identify challenges and apply problem-solving frameworks.
Alex Allamong, an MBA student graduating in December, helped evaluate outcome-based employee wellness programs for the City of Knoxville’s benefits department.
“They wanted to see how other organizations went about implementing those programs and how it might be possible for the city,” Allamong said. “We interviewed a lot of city employees and asked them about their health insurance, using those interviews to frame our external benchmarking. We presented three different solutions and recommended a hybrid system to allow them flexibility.”
Christine Fitzgerald, a benefits manager with the City of Knoxville, said working with the students helped her department communicate with employees more efficiently.
“We learned we need to meet people where they are and start small, both from a wellness design and communication standpoint,” Fitzgerald said. “We need to reinforce incentives and emphasize we care about employees and their families.”
Austin Lance, a lecturer in the management department and the faculty mentor for Allamong’s team, said experiential learning provides a mutual benefit to students and nonprofits.
“The MBA program faculty develop a statement of work with each client,” Lance said. “Students experience the real world through applied learning, and clients see opportunities through the eyes of millennials.”
Cyrus Williams, whose team provided consulting services to the Knoxville-based Sundress Academy of the Arts, enjoyed participating in the MBA program’s tradition of outreach and community service.
“Our task was to recommend how the academy can increase attendance at their writer workshops and retreats,” Williams said. “We couldn’t have done this work in the first semester, but we acquired the necessary skills and bonded with our teammates through the program’s first year.”
Krysia Camino, a dual MBA and Doctor of Jurisprudence student graduating in May 2017, worked with the Knoxville Metro Drug Coalition on using the web to build awareness about drug abuse.
“This allowed us to not only implement the skills we learned from our first-year courses, but also to experience a consulting project,” Camino said. “With guidance from our faculty mentor, we were able to narrow down what the client wanted and provide a set of recommendations to address their needs.”
Additional clients include the City of Oak Ridge, Oak Ridge Convention and Visitors Bureau, Boys and Girls Club of Clinch Valley, the Community Reuse Organization of East Tennessee, Girls Inc., the Michael Dunn Center, the Trinity Out-Reach Center of Hope, Feral Feline Friends of East Tennessee, MEDIC Regional Blood Center, the Rocky Top Institute, and the University of Tennessee Gardens.
The Haslam College of Business MBA program’s Innovation in Practice class has provided more than 50,000 consulting hours to 125 clients in East Tennessee.