Preview of the Neeley School's START Workshop

For many incoming MBA students, several years have passed since they were last inside a classroom. Post-undergrad, they’ve been building their careers, juggling family responsibilities and possibly pursuing non-traditional paths. How do you bring a group as diverse as this together and prepare them to enter an MBA program? 

At TCU, the START workshop bridges the gap. START is an intense orientation program with the goal to equip incoming students with the tools they need to be successful in the classroom from day one.

START provides accounting workshops, advanced Excel training and techniques for preparing for all aspects of the MBA experience. Most importantly, the program offers unique opportunities for students to gel as a cohort, embark upon their professional development and assimilate into the Neeley culture.

According to Anne Rooney, director of student development, START is just one part of a larger portfolio of student development programming. Leaning on her proior experience in leadership development at AT&T, Rooney works with students throughout their time at Neeley to strengthen teamwork and leadership skills.

During START, incoming students meet their assigned work teams for the fall semester, but they won’t be left to their own devices to figure out how to best work together. Kelly O’Brien, director of Neeley’s Professional Development Center, helps the students establish a team brand and a plan to sustain that brand. Each team also has a second-year coach whose role is to facilitate communication and conflict resolution.

The team members use DiSC assessment tools coupled with feedback to better understand their work style preference and that of their teammates. All this is tested in a unique rowing experience.


“Our students will literally be out on the water rowing in eight-person crews,” says Rooney. “It’s a team training exercise that requires an understanding of team dynamics, balance and self-modulation as it relates to interacting with the team and, later, an organization.”  

The activity is meant to place teams in an unfamiliar context to heighten their awareness of others and test their strength of character, sense of balance and ability to work together toward a common goal. 

In another twist to the START experience, students will participate in their first case competition—before they even show up to class. Sponsored by Oncor, the competition is the first chance the students have to showcase their abilities and solve business problems, making presentations to company execs at Oncor’s Dallas headquarters.

Nerve-racking? Yes, but students will have everything they need to make a strong showing in front of recruiters. The experience is the best way for them to understand the resources they have available to them as TCU MBA students.

Other highlights from the START workshop include dinner with the faculty hosted at the home of Dean Homer Erekson, a meet and greet for spouses and significant others and a reception with TCU MBA alumni.

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