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MBA students seating in a lecture room, posing for a picture.

Project Consultants for Semester

At St. Thomas, MBA students build real-world skills in live simulated business environments. It’s called applied learning and students put it to work when working with actual companies in the Twin Cities.

In the required first-year Applied Business Research class, Full-time MBA students get the opportunity to complete complex research projects for real clients. Cohorts are broken down into smaller teams, each assigned to consult an actual company. Whenever they have questions, they turn to MBA alumnus Greg Schockelt ’17, acting consultant to all ABR teams. He’s also Senior Analyst of Consumer Insights at Schwan's Company, a Minnesota foods company. 

Company representatives meet with the students on-campus to lay out processes and expectations of improving an aspect of their business model. They work closely with them throughout the semester and deliver a final presentation to a panel of company leaders. 

John Volp and Emily Johnson ‘18, worked as consultants with Schwan's Company. They stayed closely connected throughout the process, joining four focus groups and a concept development meeting on-site. “Schwan’s did a great job making us feel part of the team and giving us a sense of equity in the project,” said Volp.

Johnson added, “It was great getting the hands-on experience and seeing this project through from start to finish.”

Their team also gained valuable experience into consumer insights and the intricate thinking behind grocery shopping. “I gained a whole new appreciation for how product gets to the shelf,” said Volp. “The research was mind-blowing.”

They also learned a lot about managing client and customer expectations. “You learn how to communicate better and explain your reasoning -- especially when you’re being pulled in different directions or dealing with issues out of your control,” said Johnson.

Communication with stakeholders was another practical takeaway. “My biggest problem communicating before was not telling people the bad news,” said a team member. “This project reminded me that an issue may still be there tomorrow… so you might as well get it taken care of.”

On presentation day, the Schwan’s leadership team was very pleased with the hard work the students put in: “Seeing their final results, we can tell they really embraced the project. Kudos to them.”