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Smith School CLIC Lunch and Learn Series Promotes Experiential Learning

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Learning doesn’t just happen in the classroom, especially in MBA programs. In fact, it’s the outside learning experiences that can be most valuable for many MBA students and graduates.

Most full-time MBA programs organize events, clubs, competitions and other activities to provide their students with an opportunity to apply and refine the skills and knowledge they’ve acquired in the classroom. Business problems aren’t typically cookie-cutter, so it’s in students’ best interest to attend schools that foster creativity, flexibility, and teamwork.

Krishna Erramilli, associate dean at Illinois Tech’s Stuart School of Business, had this to say to the Chicago Tribune. “Business problems have become a lot more unprecedented, a lot more complex. To train our students to be successful in the 21st century, they must be able to go into a company, look at that problem and analyze the problem from multiple functional perspectives.”

That concept is just one of the reasons behind the Center for Leadership, Innovation and Change (CLIC) at the University of Maryland R.H. Smith School of Business.

Center for Leadership, Innovation and Change (CLIC)

CLIC is just one of 12 Centers of Excellence at the UMD Smith School. Each of the centers are research focused and serve as the intersection of scholarship and the marketplace. The centers exist to immerse UMD Smith students in complex and evolving marketplaces, teaching them critical thinking, creativity and entrepreneurship and helping businesses put cutting-edge research into practice.

The CLIC produces research, programs and activities that help students foster effective leadership, organizational change, innovation and social stewardship. Alison Scharman, second-year UMD Smith School MBA student and graduate assistant for CLIC, explained it to us this way: “CLIC is basically a research think tank, but we’re also interested in disseminating the results of our research to help students and businesses.”

CLIC Lunch and Learn Events

Most recently, CLIC has begun hosting “Lunch and Learn” events to engage MBA students. Throughout the early part of the spring semester, CLIC hosted three of these lunches as part of a series on leading innovation. Each event welcomed a different guest speaker, including a manager from Booz Allen, a projects manager from Mars Incorporated, and Caroline Cooksey, VP of data and research operations at CCMI.

Each event was small and informal, with only eight to ten MBA students in attendance. Kathryn M. Bartol, Ph.D., professor of leadership and innovation and co-director of CLIC, explained that the “Lunch and Learn” events are intended as less of a lecture and more a means of starting a dialogue.

“They’re informal; the idea being to get some dialogue going that would involve students learning about what’s going on in leading innovation in major organizations, and to bring people to campus and get them to know our students as well,” Bartol said. “And faculty find the conversations interesting, too. We learn what our students are interested in, we learn what companies are doing in the areas we’re interested in, and we add to the conversation.”

At the Caroline Cooksey event, attendees talked about the challenges in leading innovation centered on customers, results, change management, and sustainability of change. Some of the key takeaways:

  • Customers are the key to innovation.
  • Think of innovation in terms of the results.
  • Innovation and change go hand-in-hand.
  • Innovation has to be sustainable.

“It’s been fascinating,” said Bartol. “The speaker talks about what their job is and how they got into it, and then they talk about what they’re doing that leads to innovation. Then, the students ask questions, and they’re very insightful. The students seem to love it; the guests love it; and I, as a faculty member, love it.”

For Scharman, the interaction is definitely the best part. “One thing that is really nice is that the speakers are able to hear from MBA students,” she said. “Only about eight to ten students attend each event, so the speaker can tailor what they’re talking about to their audience. Whereas if this were a large lecture instead, it would be hard to get to all the different viewpoints.”

Scharman also sees these events as different from the school’s other career-related offerings. “Our Office of Career Services holds events for recruiting, but that’s different than these events, which bring in a professional at the top of their field,” she explained. “I think that in terms of exploring different career paths these ‘Lunch and Learn’ events are a great way to delve deeper into different careers compared to a more formal program.”

Outside the Classroom Learning

Other universities are honing their offerings outside the classroom as well. For example, more than 100 public talks by bestselling authors, top management executives, and other influential thought leaders are held at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management each year. And, six years ago, the Haas School of Business at the University of California-Berkeley made experiential learning a requirement for its MBA students. This meant the that the school had to build up and offer numerous out-of-classroom opportunities for students to build upon their skillsets including adding hands-on projects to more than 50 percent of its full-time MBA electives.

But while adding experiential learning is a must for business schools, that doesn’t mean it’s a simple process. When reflecting on the difficulties of implementing it at Haas, Dean Richard Lyons said, “It’s expensive, it’s high-touch, it’s got a lot of logistics It’s kind of easy to say, but when you are doing it, it’s pretty serious. This is not throwing one more faculty member in front of one more lecture hall.”

This post has been republished in its entirety from its original source,