Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Kansas Impact Project molds MBA students into exceptional leaders

Full-Time MBA students won’t graduate without being tested by real-world business dilemmas through the Kansas Impact Project (KIP).

KIP is designed to thrust first-year MBA students into the realities, both rewarding and challenging, of an MBA’s career. Besides the obvious learning application, KIP is intended to develop student’s strategic-thinking skills, problem solving and teamwork. Diane O’Byrne, coordinator of KIP, said this is an opportunity students need to take advantage of.

KIP team with client, Habitat for Humanity ReStore
“It’s the chance for students to take what they’re learning in the classroom and utilize that knowledge to problem solve a very real-world issue for a non-profit,” O’Byrne said.

O’Byrne has advised and worked with her six teams as they’ve acted as consultants to their partner non-profit or service organization, but it’s the students who have stepped up to the plate. This week, six months of performing research, identifying problems and brainstorming solutions are coming to an end, but what they’ve learned will last a lifetime.

Will McCullough, a current KIP student working with the Kansas Rural Center, said the project fosters a challenging environment that has pushed him to the edge, because even though the project is rewarding, it’s also very difficult. He describes how the project faces students with the realities of business:  indecision, bad practices and leaders who are rough around the edges.

“Anyone who is able to thrive and succeed in KIP has proven themselves to be an incredible leader,” McCullough said. “It gives great opportunity to cut our teeth on some tricky stuff.”

As KIP students finalize their presentations to be given this Thursday, they keep in mind that it’s not only the client they’ll be presenting to. Friends, faculty, university administrators, elected officials and the general public will all be present Thursday to hear each team’s final solutions for their organizations.

McCullough is more than ready to see the results of half a year’s work, he said. He has become a strong advocate for the project after his experience and encourages future MBA students to get excited about being part of KIP.

 “It'll make you whine like a little foolish baby, but as you push through and get stuff done, it'll stretch you and strengthen you,” McCullough said.  “And at the end of the program, you'll wake up one day and go, ‘Wow, I can handle a lot more now than I used to.’”

by Mackenzie Leander