NELAB Fosters Neeley's Experiential Learning Initiative

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First-year students meeting with potential Neeley & Associates clients.
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NELAB Frito Lay

TCU places a lot of value on experiential learning, and rightly so. At the Neeley School of Business, MBA candidates benefit from ample opportunities to demonstrate their skills in high-pressure situations, to network with thought leaders in their areas of specialization and to add substantive experience to their resumes. Bell Helicopter, Frito-Lay, Nike and PepsiCo are just a few of the clients who have partnered with TCU MBA candidates via Neeley & Associates Consulting, our premier experiential learning offering.

The Neeley Experiential Learning Advisory Board (NELAB) plays a critical role in making the TCU MBA program one in which students learn by doing. Thanks to the Neeley & Associates Consulting initiative, each semester teams of TCU MBA students work for fee-paying clients at major businesses, nonprofits and community organizations in the Dallas-Fort Worth region. These student teams review and evaluate opportunities, challenges and concerns and develop solutions for achieving their client’s larger strategic goals, enhancing their current operations.

Every Neeley & Associates Consulting team is assigned a NELAB consultant coach. These knowledgeable business leaders are committed to making a difference by sharing their experiences, insights and, where possible, their organizational resources. The coaches who serve on the Neeley Experiential Learning Advisory Board come from global organizations, primarily global consulting firms. Their role is that of a process coach, e.g., how to scope a messy client project down to the agreed-upon expectations as outlined in a project charter, how to use questions effectively and how to prepare for a project kick-off meeting.

After the project kick-off meeting, NELAB members serving as consulting coaches for the teams and are available as needed. They also have a key, individual role: conducting two separate Quality Assurance Reviews (QARs) during each client engagement. As with the Neeley faculty Subject Matter Expert (SME) who supports each client team, the NELAB member works to support the team behind the scenes.

These NELAB mentors are also constantly assessing the overall effectiveness of the Neeley & Associates Consulting initiative. Which game plans are delivering the best results? What adjustments need to be made to ensure continued excellence? The NELAB coaches provide essential guidance to students and program administrators alike, ensuring best practices and suggesting ways in which TCU’s investment in experiential learning might produce even more accomplished and conscientious graduates.

As NELAB mentor Dennis Mullahy, EVP supply chain and IT at Irving’s Michaels Stores, explains, “those coming out of the program certainly have a head start in understanding how to solve complex business problems in a short window of time and I believe are well positioned to accelerate into leadership roles in any organization.”

Independent retail consultant Vic Gallese has more than 30 years experience in his field. He observes that “the quality of Neeley & Associates team deliverables is outstanding, and the students, themselves, are better prepared and more focused due to their preliminary training, communication skills and the standards of their predecessors.”

All NELAB mentors volunteer their services. They do so because they believe in the importance of experiential learning. According to Christine Kalish of the Brittan-Kalish Group, “Experiential learning is a key component of a strong business school program. It is critical to be able to transfer learning to the job or the project, for someone to understand how to apply knowledge to everyday work life. The Neeley & Associates experience builds that bridge.”

Furthermore, these mentors appreciate that maintaining good community relations is also a sound business practice. Michael Patyk is one of the founding partners of Rhodes Osiek Patyk and Co. He gives back through his NELAB service, in part, because he’s “a proud TCU alumni, and supporter of all things TCU.”

Dave Coburn, Accenture managing director of technology and client delivery, believes the Neeley & Associates Consulting initiative is truly unique to TCU. And he recognizes that one reason why it is unique is the level of care both students and mentors bring to the work they do through the program.

Learn more about how TCU’s Neeley & Associates experience can maximize your potential by visiting the Neeley School of Business School website.

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