First-Year MBAs Put to the Test During Integrative Project

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Team of First-Year MBA Students (PC: Mitch Howe)
Each year at the end of their first semester, first-year MBAs are put to the test in a weeklong interactive business simulation known as the Integrative Project. This exercise challenges students to put into practice what they’ve learned in the classroom across the curriculum.

The Integrative Project tests students’ strategic thinking, team leadership and presentation skills by having student teams operate as the management for a start-up company. They’re tasked with making decisions related to all aspects of the business, including operations, forecasting, marketing, IT, accounting, finance, supply chain management, e-business, HR and more. In the process, students are pushed outside the comfort zone of their prior experience to discover the consequences of these broad-reaching decisions—the conflicts, the tradeoffs and the potential outcomes.

“I learned to balance several tasks at once, especially when working within a group,” says MBA student Matthew Nunley.

Teams are charged with convincing a panel of professors—and the corporate execs there to see the teams in action—that their plan solves the business problem at hand and makes the most of the opportunities ahead. The involvement of so many high-level companies means the IP also presents students with the opportunity to get their foot in the door with regard to internships.

“It is important to brand yourself (or your team) to sell the message you are delivering,” says Nunley.

This year, recruiters from over 15 companies attended including: American Airlines, Trinity Industries, ThinkFinance, Transwestern, United Way, Oncor, Michaels, Alcon and PepsiCo.

The simulation also yielded key takeaways the students couldn’t have gained in the classroom. Participating students noted the importance of making decisions quickly and the link between process and productivity. They also learned a lot about each other.

“Through the IP competition, I learned how the competition can be unpredictable in business,” says MBA candidate Cariel Apodaca. “Even though I know my classmates very well, several teams made decisions throughout the week that were unexpected and required us to adjust our plans.”

Experiential learning is a pillar of a Neeley School education, and this project is one example of that first-person mentality. MBAs begin their first semester with a case competition during the START workshop and end their semester using everything they've learned since to tackle the Integrative Project.

A successful newly minted MBA "takes what they've learned and applies it to business. An unsuccessful one tries to adapt the business to what they've learned,” says Bill Wempe, executive director of graduate programs.

For more information on the Integrated Project, click here.

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