New Interactive Problem-Solving Laboratory to Support Businesses and Community Growth

News Story: November 19, 2013

Sacred Heart University has announced plans to launch an interdisciplinary experiential learning program designed to expose students to business problems requiring real-time applied solutions. The program will target community organizations and businesses looking to address growth and marketing opportunities and to enhance or influence public perception, working in partnership to help create and implement innovative action plans.

The University’s John F. Welch College of Business (WCOB) will launch the Problem-Based Learning (PBL) Lab, effective January 2014. They are now actively seeking corporate and community partners to submit potential projects for fall 2014 and beyond.

According to Kwamie Dunbar, assistant dean and assistant professor of finance, the PBL is an interdisciplinary experiential learning program designed to expose students to real-world business problems requiring creative and effective applied solutions. When fully functional, he explains, it will function like an internal consulting group.

“We’re always looking for ways to bring real-world practice into the classroom and to achieve balance between the theoretical and practical through guided, interactive, hands-on learning,” says Dunbar. “Students will analyze a complex business question or problem using an extensive process of inquiry with support from faculty advisors, outside subject-matter experts and regular feedback from the corporate or organizational partner. The program is designed to mutually benefit our students and the local business community by providing high-quality business solutions to some of today’s complex business problems.”

A key selling point of the PBL, Dunbar adds, is that it gives businesses the flexibility of having a faculty-led student team research and resolve challenging business problems. Student teams working in a controlled lab setting on these projects will be able to video conference or hold weekly client calls to discuss project progress and will work closely with a faculty advisor. Student candidates interested in participating will have to apply to the program and be screened and interviewed to determine qualifications and interest, and then will be assigned to teams.

According to John Chalykoff, dean of the WCOB, preparing students for future success is intricately tied to strong partnerships between business schools and the businesses they serve. “The recent phenomena of problem-based learning labs that deal with real-time company issues instead of stagnant cases is a promising development—and more so when the business professionals are actively involved,” says Chalykoff. “Business schools and businesses are uniquely poised to jointly produce the next generation of business leaders, and they share a responsibility to work together in this endeavor.”

As projects are identified, the PBL will seek out subject-matter experts from SHU’s alumni and WCOB networks. They also are now reaching out to communities and businesses in southern Connecticut to determine interest and solicit participants.

For spring 2014, the City of Bridgeport has signed on for an inaugural project involving an economic-impact study of city facilities and events on the local economy. This will allow the city to have metrics on job creation, Dunbar explains, as well as examining tourism revenues and local business activities that will be used in its marketing campaigns and as economic updates to local news outlets.

For fall 2014, they also are adding a project from TranSigma Partners, a risk-management company. This long-term project, Dunbar says, has the potential for students to work on international projects with TranSigma’s global teams in Europe.

SHU has posted a link to the PBL that highlights some of the potential benefits for corporate and community partners and details how interested parties can get involved. It can be found at