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Effective Practices

Effective Practices: Suffolk Makes Global Projects Work for Part-time Students

Effective Practices. As a way of sharing what works in graduate management education, Graduate Management News occasionally looks in depth at specific programs in business schools.

How can part-time MBA programs offer significant international experiences for students with full-time jobs? Suffolk University’s Sawyer Business School created an inventive solution: consulting projects that combine student work at home with field work abroad that can be completed during vacation time.

Students in Suffolk’s specialized Global MBA program take the same core courses as their counterparts in Suffolk’s MBA program, except for a business law course that has more of an international focus. After finishing the core courses, students in the Global program pursue concentrations in either international marketing or international finance. While a week-long travel seminar abroad is mandatory, faculty also wanted students to gain more significant hands-on work experience abroad. Full-time students meet that requirement by completing a three-month summer internship outside their home country.

But part-time students usually can’t take that much time off from their jobs, so Lillian Hallberg, dean of MBA programs and assistant dean of graduate programs, worked with students and faculty to design an innovative alternative. Part-time students can complete a three-month consulting project that includes a two-week residency at a firm outside the United States. Students find assignments through their own connections or with the school’s help. Instead of attending evening classes during the summer term, part-time students research their consulting project from home. Then, typically using vacation time, they travel to the company with whom they are working for an intensive two-week consultancy on site. Students complete their analysis and final recommendations once they return home. Some report back to the company via Skype.

Faculty, students, and administrators agree that this option provides “an incredible opportunity for the part-time students to add actual global work experience to their portfolio of skills,” Hallberg said. The part-time students’ employers like the concept because “students are increasing their global skills in a real work sense,” she said, and return having tested those skills in a global context.

The program launched last summer with part-time MBAs consulting with companies on three continents. Megan Donnachie, whose full-time job is as assistant vice president at Scottish Development International, worked on marketing and product development for oceanside resorts owned by the PAP Corporation in Greece. The project added a strong dimension in tourism to her work portfolio, which previously had focused on textiles.

Noel Perez consulted with a licensing firm in Argentina that markets the Mattel Barbie brand in South America. Hallberg helped him connect with the firm through a former Sawyer faculty member who had moved back to Argentina. The licensing firm adopted many of Perez’s suggestions in its marketing campaign. And shortly after Perez returned from Argentina, his employer, Tewksbury, Massachusetts-based digital media company Avid Technology Inc., promoted him to be its logistics manager for Asia Pacific.

“There’s a definite benefit and a relationship between what I learned earning the Suffolk Global MBA and the international work I’m doing now,” he said.

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