Current MBA Field Projects

Students Deliver Brainpower

Student groups regularly give back to the community by volunteering in soup kitchens, raising money for cancer research and walking to end AIDS.

Sometimes they offer more than their time, they bring brainpower while applying their coursework, resulting in a situation in which students learn what it is like work in the real world while the community benefits from their expertise.

Capitalizing on Albany Properties

The MBA students in Susan Pedo’s communication class are there to develop presentation skills. In the fall they did that and more.

Pedo works with the Capitalize Albany Corporation (she is a member of their board of directors) to offer students the opportunity to make presentations that are more than an exercise. Each team structures a 10-minute presentation to convince developers to invest in a property in downtown Albany. Most recently, students researched and pitched projects to enhance a busy commercial corridor, an Albany waterfront site and an urban neighborhood.

Pedo said, “Working with CAC provides a great opportunity for the students to get real presentation experience and feedback from business developers.”

Sarah Reginelli, president of Capitalize Albany called it a win-win. She said, “Students become more familiar with the city’s assets and teach us about better tools to present information.”

Pedo said, “Each of the sites has unique opportunities and challenges. Students use their career and academic expertise to select and develop projects that maximize opportunities. The Capitalize Albany staff appreciate their fresh approaches and ideas for developing properties.”

Above: MBA students Ashley Alpers ’16 and David De Freitas ’16 present plans for the Albany waterfront.

Reginelli added, “It speaks to the caliber of students that the University at Albany produces and the level of skill, professionalism and excitement they bring.”

Valerie Chew ’16 participated in a team that presented a plan to develop a parking lot into “DiverCITY,” a multicultural three-story market that would house restaurants, retail and public meeting space. The project not only provided developers with a possible plan, it illustrated to students what it would be like to deliver a pitch to a panel of professionals. Chew said, “They said that our delivery was succinct and easy to follow,” adding, “The project was interesting, helpful and not straight out of a book.”

Applying IT to a Startup

Field projects have been central to the MBA curriculum since the inception of the program in 1969. This year, MBA students consult with 10 companies, including UThisMe, a startup firm that created a software application for secure messaging in health care.

Information Technology Chair Sanjay Goel said, “We select a suitable team and develop a set of deliverables. The students train and work as consultants, which provides them with experiential learning that serves them and the companies that they work for well past graduation.” Student Cindy Ogando ’15 agrees. She said, “It is valuable to us because it is real world. We provide deliverables.”

Management consultant Jan Woodcock ’86, ’91, former senior partner at Deloitte, who has been involved in the MBA capstone course, Going Green Globally, and serves on the Dean’s Advisory Board, advocated for this field project in particular.

Woodcock said that the UThisMe project is different from other field projects because it is a true startup. He said, “It’s leading edge technology in a leading edge environment.”

The MBA alumnus appreciates the students’ fresh perspective. He said, “They are well-rounded in business and will not say ‘It can’t be done.’ They will try new ways of doing things.

Small Nonprofit Learns about Social Media

Marketing chair Suraj Commuri’s class in social media marketing offers a live project in every class. During the 2013-2014 school year, his students worked with a local family-owned retailer, Old Brick Furniture Company. Based on their involvement with the class, the company hired a social media expert.

This fall, the class worked with Grassroot Givers, a small nonprofit organization that “gives with dignity,” collecting high quality household items, books and clothing to distribute to homeless people and others in need. Five hundred people pass through their doors each month.

Co-directors Roberta Sandler and Mary Partridge-Brown value the student effort. Sandler said, “As a small nonprofit, we don’t have a development office. It is just us.” The pair were impressed with the research conducted by the class and how well they understood the nonprofit environment.

Marketing/finance student Brett Kramer said, “Building a business isn’t easy. We weren’t getting paid for our work with them, but they don’t get paid either. I’d rather have an assignment that helps someone. It’s more than a grade.”

The class recommended ways for Grassroot Givers to connect with their generation, the millennials, particularly through social media. They offered Hootsuite as an easy and low-cost way to manage multiple social media accounts. One low-tech idea was to offer handmade Livestrong-type bracelets for a donation, to spread awareness and raise funds for the organization.

Grassroot Givers board member Lisa Trubitt, Assistant CIO at UAlbany, facilitated the connection. Forty-six percent of business students are enrolled in marketing as a full or combined concentration.

Below: Members of Dr. Suraj Commuri’s social media class present their ideas to nonprofit Grassroot Givers.

Brainpower Panel