MBA Students Successfully Complete Action Learning Projects

News Story: May 1, 2011

Students in Sacred Heart University’s new Welch MBA program recently completed three Action Learning projects to the great satisfaction of the not-for-profit organizations that benefited from their hard work. Action Learning projects are commonly used to develop organizational leaders in industry. As a critical part of their MBA learning experience and leadership development, students are asked to manage a project that they research, design, implement and evaluate. The project is implemented in a real organizational setting to provide the students with valuable project management skills and experience. These projects also give students an opportunity to explore a topic in depth and to apply their classroom learning within a real-life organizational setting.

Hopeline Pregnancy Resource Center
Rachel Brenha and Mark Funderburk took on the Hopeline Pregnancy Resource Center for their project. The organization needed to increase its funding and wanted ideas to develop and build the donor base with a contact management plan. After rigorous research on how the group was currently analyzing and developing donations, the students recommended a new system and software that would provide a contact data base. They investigated the cost of the new system and also made recommendations about which fund-raising areas Hopeline should continue or increase and where efforts should be decreased or eliminated. They made a presentation to the organization’s management team and were invited back to report to the full Board of Directors.

“The students were extremely industrious in how they went about the research and the analysis, which led to compelling and creative ideas in terms of moving forward,” said Valerie Christian, their adviser and teacher of their MBA Capstone course.

Hopeline Pregnancy Resource Center Project Manager Linda Delaney, also a member of the Board of Directors, added, “We have worked with Sacred Heart students on four projects, and they have always done a wonderful job. The Board is currently reviewing their recommendations and making decisions. We could never have been able to afford to pay a consultant to do this work, and we are extremely grateful.”

Operation HOPE
Four students – Craig Garvey, Amy Orzechowski, Polina Markovich and Olivier St. Onge – took on a project for Operation HOPE. The project involves creating an opportunity for possible employment for homeless men and women. The students were asked to research the project and determine if there might be a need in the community. The students looked at cost and demand at various locations, developed a market survey, studied capacity and investigated possible donations of money and equipment for the project. They then presented a three-year financial plan to the director and two board members of Operation HOPE.

“The presentation was well received, and Operation HOPE is excited about the project. They are still reviewing the details of how to make the business happen, but they are determined to get it done using the students’ work as an important foundation,” Christian said.

“The students were like a team of consultants, helping me put my ideas into a format that would be useful in moving our project forward. They were great to work with, held themselves to high standards, and they delivered a professional product. It was an excellent experience, and we were lucky to have their help. We look forward to using their work to help us with a new initiative in the near future,” said Carla Miklos, executive director of Operation HOPE. “The Center for Not-for-Profit Organizations at Sacred Heart is truly a godsend for non-profits working with small budgets. The students get a real-time work experience and an opportunity to use their skills to do good, and the organization gets the benefit of committed students and faculty dedicated to helping solve a problem.  For Operation HOPE and our pending project, it couldn’t have been a better match.”

Jewish Home for the Elderly
Four students – Christopher DePalma, Kathleen Mallack, Frank Telesco and Kelsey Zeyher – worked with the Jewish Home for the Elderly to evaluate how that organization could grow its ancillary businesses, such as outpatient physical therapy, adult day care, home health services, etc. The students examined the financials and determined where there were issues and where there were opportunities. They then did a competitive analysis for five of the Jewish Home’s businesses. They were able to develop creative ideas and advertising strategies, including an estimate of the impact the advertising would have.

“The students did an outstanding competitive analysis and presented their findings professionally to the entire management team,” Christian said.

Not-for-profit agencies in the area who would like to have Sacred Heart University MBA students work on a project can contact the Center for Not-for-Profit Organizations at SHU. Please call Deacon Dan Ianniello at (203) 371-7853 or Bill Joyce at (203) 371-7853.