MBA Students Work on Burr Mansion Revitalization Project

News Story: May 14, 2015

Never let ‘em see you sweat is what business mentors will tell you, and four Sacred Heart University MBA students put that advice to the test recently as they presented their “Phase II Business Plan and Economic Impact Study of the Burr Mansion Revitalization” to a panel of executives and community leaders at the Fairfield Museum and History Center.

The students—Sophie Mander-Mgbekonye, Francesco Sardo, Dmitry Solovyev and Ethan Voltolini—are enrolled in SHU’s Jack Welch College of Business MBA program. They teamed together as part of their capstone course taught by Professor Valerie Christian. Christian left a distinguished career in corporate America when she joined the University in 2002 as MBA director. Melissa Rossi, a Welch MBA graduate herself, assisted in overseeing the project given that she had worked on the earlier consulting project for the Burr Mansion and has strong brand management expertise.

The team’s challenge was to review the recommendations of a prior consulting team with regard to additional usages and revenue streams that could be realized at the landmark Burr Mansion property at 739 Old Post Road, Fairfield, a space owned by the town and operated by the museum. The panel to whom the group presented included Mark Barnhart, director of business development, Town of Fairfield; Michael Jehle, executive director, Fairfield Museum; Rossi, associate brand manager, Energizer; Georgiana Platt, Burr Mansion manager; Jack Lett, chairman of SHU’s Not-for-Profit Center; and Christian.

Each team member played a role: Mander-Mgbekonye kicked it off with a review of the background and methodology of economic impact studies. Solovyev spoke about the financial ramifications of refurbishing the Burr Mansion, Voltolini suggested marketing ideas for a revitalized Burr Mansion and Sardo explained the quantitative economic impact of investments to the historic site for the surrounding community.

Looking sharp in business attire, they fluidly walked through the information, addressed panelist questions and supplied additional facts as needed. Their suggestions included consideration of other events of a non-wedding nature, such as corporate affairs and small business gatherings that could generate increased income. They identified the town’s operating costs, drilling down on associated capital costs required to enhance operational efficiency and marketability of the Burr facility, and they refined the business development plan and conducted an economic impact study that demonstrated the value of investments to the stakeholders of the town: employment opportunities, tourism, tax revenues, etc.

Sardo, an MBA due to graduate in May 2015, said about the exercise, “Our collaborative effort taught us to put the goals of the team and the client above our individual ones while being ethically responsible. These values were a constant measure throughout my time in the MBA program at the Welch College of Business.”

Christian also stressed the importance of collaboration. “To be successful in today’s business world, individuals need to be able to work together and creatively. Teamwork, however, becomes even more critical when an organization—whether it is a for-profit or not-for-profit—is facing a challenge that might undercut its competitiveness, viability or achievement of its mission.”

Beyond teamwork, the project had other benefits, said Christian. “It was real-world—at times “messy” and ambiguous, multi-faceted, complex, time sensitive and very important to the client. It also built the students’ confidence, demonstrating that they could structure and make valuable contributions to a complex problem and reminding them that they are capable of taking on challenges outside their comfort zone,” she said.

Summing up the effort overall, Christian concluded, “These are the types of deep learning experiences we feel are distinctive about SHU’s MBA program. Theory and practice inform each other. They will apply what they’ve learned as they take on all different types of new challenges in their future business careers.”