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Learning prepares SHU MBA students to move up career ladder

By Sacred Heart University

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Anthony Macari, J.D., MBA (left), director of Sacred Heart University's MBA program, asked questions of the students who were presenting in the Dynamic Business Management class. At right is Dr. Steven Brown, professor of Management in the University's John F. Welch College of Business. Photo by Johnathon Henninger
FAIRFIELD, CT - If Sacred Heart University Master’s in Business Administration Director Anthony Macari, J.D., MBA, had a mantra, it would be “Learn, apply. Learn, apply.”

“It’s great to talk about the concepts and theories that make a successful business or an exceptional business person, but it's impossible to become competent and confident about using those theories until you apply them,” Macari said. “You cannot sit back in a classroom, take notes and a final exam, then wait for learning to seep in anymore than you can just show up for work every day and expect to be promoted. The Welch MBA requires active participation, critical thinking and the ability to stretch yourself beyond your current expertise.”

That's why Sacred Heart’s John F. Welch College of Business offers as part of its nationally-recognized MBA program a two-semester, 12-credit, integrated “Dynamic Business Management” course that requires students to not just simulate the creation and launch of a product, but to make decisions related to all aspects of running a business, including accounting, staffing, marketing, facility operations and strategic planning.

The program is team taught by both SHU professors and a group of New York and Connecticut senior business executives who serve as program adjuncts. Each section is led by a full-time faculty member such as Dr. Stephen M. Brown, who serves as both instructor and facilitator to ensure that all of the components fit together.

Under their guidance this past semester, teams of four to five students focused on creating new products appropriate for Colgate-Palmolive. Products were presented in early April in a set-up similar to the ABC reality television show Shark Tank, in which would-be entrepreneurs stand alone on a stage, in a spotlight, and pitch their ideas to no-nonsense investors. Students at Sacred Heart present to the C level executive team of the company.

For most students, it’s a nerve-wracking experience that requires them to be persuasive, prepared and professional, demonstrating not just what the product does and why consumers would want it, but whether it will create value for the company.

Among the products students pitched in the most recent round of presentations were toothpaste for dogs, a sports mouth guard and a kids’ electrical toothbrush designed to appeal to moms. Among the “Sharks” instructing and critiquing students were CIT Group Banking Executive Vice President Raymond Quinlan, Rockit Solutions Partnership (part of Rockefeller and Company Inc.) Tax Director David J. Orticelli, Watch Hill Partnership President and CEO Paul D'Andrea and Ned McMahon, partner at Ohlandt, Greeley, Ruggerio and Perle, LLP. Other executives regularly teaching in the program include Tim Crader and Matt Iovine from General Electric.

From left, William Crowe, Leilannie Quintana and Mark Frisone present their project for “Colgate Canine Care” in their Dynamic Business Management class at Sacred Heart University. Photo by Johnathon Henninger
“These are business giants,” explained Brown. “Most students come into the MBA program with a specific area of interest or expertise, but these business leaders and our classes force students to cross over and think about problems from the perspective of other disciplines. Marketing students are forced to make finance decisions; finance students have to make operating decisions. And the real-life learning they receive from the executives who partner with us and share their experiences is just incredible. We push students to gain competence and confidence outside of their comfort zone.”

Sacred Heart MBA student Rachel Mitchell, a Wilton mother of two looking to start a business in the beverage industry, believes one of the greatest benefits of the kind of hands-on learning Dynamic Business Management provides is that every student gets the opportunity to manage and lead.

“It’s not passive learning, but active learning that’s helped me build on my strengths and create new ones,” Mitchell said. “One of the biggest things this course has done is help me fine-tune my presentation skills. But the opportunities for professional growth are wide-reaching. Classes touch on every aspect of today’s competitive business environment, which we students will definitely encounter outside the classroom.”

That idea of knowing what to expect because you've already experienced it is one of the cornerstones of the program, Macari said.

“Because of these classes, our students go to work each day better prepared than the day before,” he concluded. “They know not just how to work as part of a team, but what each member of the team is expected to deliver. It prepares students not just for a career, but to move up the career ladder.”

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