Real-World Experience: Core Part of the Feliciano Accelerated MBA

For entertainment and retail mega-complex American Dream, teams of MBA students strategized ways to drive visitors and shoppers to the Meadowlands NJ site. For apparel company True Religion, students tackled diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) issues, navigating the complexities of both corporate and retail workplaces.

Both were experiential learning opportunities available through the Feliciano School of Business’ Accelerated MBA program.

“There’s a big difference between talking about strategies and actually developing them,” said Geoff Chellis, an instructional specialist for the MBA program leading the Business Consulting Experience courses. “The fact that these students can say, ‘we worked directly with American Dream and I can give you the names of the executives involved’ is huge.”

The full-time, Accelerated MBA programs, aimed at recent graduates (12 month program) or those nearing graduation as part of a 4+1 program (completed in 17 months), were launched in 2019. Classes are both in-person and online, enabling students to learn flexibly, as cohorts, and network as part of their experience.

Nicole Koppel, MBA director and a professor of information management and business analytics, said the Accelerated MBA program helps students advance their business careers through a combination of traditional classwork and hands-on experience working with global companies. The program also offers individualized career development together with insights from business leaders through the MBA Executive Speaker Series.

One way Accelerated MBA program students can build their business experience is through co-ops, which match students with local companies to work on real-time projects for company leaders and managers. During 2021, students worked with clothing brand True Religion on its DEI strategy. Students met with company leaders, including the chief executive officer, to understand the challenges and opportunities around programming, and developed employee surveys to collect data. While many students were familiar with the brand as retail customers, they got deeper insights into its corporate culture and how other companies approach these very current issues.

“They had unprecedented exposure to these C-level executives,” Koppel said. “They came out of this with a terrific experience that they can highlight on their resumes and in job interviews.”

During business consulting experience courses in Fall 2021, student teams worked with American Dream to help its developers and executives identify strategies for attracting both retail and business to business customers. The more than 3 million square-foot center, which boasts the country’s largest indoor theme park ski slope and roller coaster, opened in late 2019 but was shuttered in March 2020 for more than seven months due to the pandemic. Student teams took different approaches, with some presenting plans to attract large corporate and conference events, and others seeking to attract the region’s diverse communities by hosting cultural and holiday events.

Students presented their plans in the boardroom of the company’s headquarters to the chief operating officer and other top executives.

The winning plan recommended  marketing Big SNOW as an indoor skiing trade show experience to ski and snow equipment manufacturers during the crucial summer months when retail buyers are finalizing holiday orders.

“This type of work was two or three levels higher than the jobs they would initially get hired for,” Chellis said. “Reporting to C-suite executives – that may never happen in your career, but here, students got that experience first-hand.”

Leandra Merola (MBA ’21), said her 15-week business consulting experience project with sportswear manufacturer adidas during Spring 2021 felt like working in a corporate environment as the student teams researched the brand, analyzed the market and came up with innovative ideas to help it build loyalty and trust with a new generation of runners. Presenting strategic recommendations to brand leaders in Germany and the US also helped her build confidence.

“It took us through the life cycle of a project and consulting with a company,” Merola said. “When I am in my next position, I will know that I am capable of giving presentations to clients, doing data analysis and coming up with really cool ideas to solve problems.”