New Initiatives of Baylor's MBA!

By Cunningham, Don | Baylor Business Review, Spring 1998 | Go to article overview

New Initiatives of Baylor's MBA!


Cunningham, Don, Baylor Business Review


In an effort to enrich and advance graduate education at the Hankamer School of Business, a group of core faculty is retooling the MBA program around functional integration, real world applications, technological advances, global awareness, and team-centered student learning. A major initiative for delivering these is called the "focus firm" project.

The Focus Firm Project

The focus firm is a corporate-alliance project involving one publicly-held company each semester. Through interaction with the firm's executives, students and faculty explore the company's current core issues and make them the centerpiece of the MBA curriculum for the semester. The advantage over simulation exercises, case studies, or "field trips" is that students across the entire core curriculum receive real-time delivery of current business issues. Students are literally immersed in the present life of a dynamic, actively functioning company.

Last fall, Briggs & Stratton was our "focus firm." Over the course of the semester, corporate executives in Milwaukee participated in seven videoconferences with graduate business students on the Baylor campus. At the end of the semester, the project culminated with presentation day. B&S flew their executives to Waco for strategy presentations by students in Management 5385.

Over the semester, students vicariously experienced what it's like to deal with union problems involving lawsuits and the relocation of production plants from the North to the South. They confronted seasonal production problems and explored the use of college students as a special workforce for evening and weekend production shifts. They heard managers express their frustration with the implementation of SAP, a company-wide retrieval system, and they came to better understand the entry barriers to international markets and the global competition exerted by firms like Honda.

Current Focus Firm-VTEL

The Spring 1998 focus firm is a small NASDAQ-traded company called VTEL. In contrast to the classic operation of the familiar market leader Briggs & Stratton, VTEL offers students the opportunity to experience a young company competing in the emerging market of digital communications. VTEL's recent acquisition of a major competitor is giving students a glimpse of organizational dynamics occurring in a merger culture. The terms cash rich, low leverage, and poison pill come to life as significant factors affecting potential acquisition suitors.

To determine the impact of the focus firm project, internal and external student satisfaction surveys are conducted. …

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