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Each spring, teams of first-year Eller MBA students connect with corporations and nonprofit organizations for in-depth consulting projects that challenge them to apply the academic knowledge they’re gaining in the classroom.

The Microsoft project team (L-R): Anubhav Swami (MBA ‘11), Alicia Orabuena (MBA ‘11), David Spinelli (Microsoft sponsor), Vishwanath Subramanian (MBA ‘11), and Dale Prentiss (MBA ‘11).

The Microsoft project team (L-R): Anubhav Swami (MBA
‘11), Alicia Orabuena (MBA ‘11), David Spinelli (Microsoft
sponsor), Vishwanath Subramanian (MBA ‘11), and Dale
Prentiss (MBA ‘11).

The project scope varies by client — this semester, teams will work on projects dealing with everything from supply-chain management to market research for clients including Raytheon, Microsoft, Northwest Medical Center, Community Foundation of Southern Arizona, City of Tucson, and GLHN Architects & Engineers, Inc.

“The project gives us experience working with clients to develop solutions to actual issues that they face,” explains Anubhav Swami, MBA ’11 and team leader for the Microsoft project. “It also provides a great opportunity to reinforce the learning from the first semester because, like any real situation, most field projects require solutions that span the breadth of the knowledge spectrum that we are exposed to in the classroom.”

“Through the field project, I hope to gain experience in client management and research — learning how to identify and prioritize problem-solving when neither the problem nor the sources for solutions are clearly presented,” says Raytheon team leader Felipe Souza, MBA ’11.

It’s also a chance to test out the skills they honed in their first-semester business communication course. “What we learned from the class is helping us approach and communicate with our clients as we start the field projects, and will be immensely useful when it comes time to write our final reports and present our findings to our clients,” Swami says.

The field projects offer significant benefit to the client side as well. “Time and time again we have been impressed by the students at Eller — over the last two years, with each engagement, they have helped us think critically about the most pressing challenges we face,” says Mark Kipphut, director of strategic planning and competitive analysis for Raytheon Missile Systems’ business development unit. “The students’ clear-headed assessments and detailed analyses have directly contributed to maintaining Raytheon as a global industry leader.”

“The MBA field project provides the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona with a unique opportunity to leverage the creativity and expertise of the College’s students for the good of the community,” says community philanthropy advisor Evan Mendelson. “The students were engaged and excited to help us take our services to the next level. It’s a win-win.”

The projects officially kicked off on January 22. “The kickoff went well,” reports Souza. “It was interesting to hear the representatives from other projects talk about their organizations and expectations for the projects. I’m looking forward to working with Raytheon and learning more about their business practices, concerns, and culture.”

Over the course of the semester, the MBA teams will work with their clients to define the scope of the project and its deliverables. The projects will wrap up in the spring. “Oddly enough, I’m looking forward to the challenge of having whatever recommendations my group puts forward survive the battery of questioning by Raytheon executives through our mid-term and final reports,” Souza says.

The projects will also help prepare students for their summer internships and boost their resumes for full-time employment. “Working with a client like Microsoft is definitely helpful in acquiring a summer internship,” adds Swami, “particularly since I’m still looking for one.”

eller buzz will check in with the teams at semester’s end to see how their projects shaped up.

Find out how you can connect with Eller MBAs by hosting a field project: contact Nannon Roosa at 520.621.5099.