Business students consult with local partners in strategic management capstone course

At the Lundy-Fetterman School of Business, students served as virtual consultants yet again in a real-world, client-based capstone course — MBA 790: Strategic Management “Live Case Seminar”.

Taught by Dr. Shahriar Mostashari with help from Dr. Mike Seibert, the capstone course won a Faculty Development Summer Grant last year. An analysis of 120 students’ test results before and after the course found that the live case methodology promoted learning transfer. There were statistically significant improvements in technical skills, interpersonal skills, and consulting skills, which are highly valued and sought by employers.

“Judging by the positive qualitative feedback and statistically significant quantitative findings, we have demonstrated that it is possible to master Strategic Management and Business Consulting in eight weeks by using the Live Case experiential learning method,” said Mostashari. 

This past spring term, twenty-six MBA students were split into six teams to learn fundamental aspects of business consulting. The MBA teams were paired with small business owner-managers from Fayetteville, Pembroke and Raleigh, NC area. Their eight-week consulting assignment was to establish a collaborative relationship with their client in order to analyze the business, size up the client’s business savvy, and identify opportunities for improving the firm’s competitiveness and profitability. The tenth cohort who undertook this task had an added challenge due to COVID-19 — they logged a total of 1,636 hours of virtual collaboration with their clients and SBTDC advisors.

Teams conducted extensive primary and secondary research tasks and assignments, including owner interviews, competitor analysis, financial analysis, and more. Their virtual meetings featured interactions with owner-managers, faculty and SBTDC Advisors. The students were also assisted by Business Librarian Dan Maynard who reviewed APA (American Psychological Association) research paper formatting, online resources, and research techniques. Allan Winter and Adam McIntyre with Campbell’s IT department provided help with distance learning technologies and virtual consulting tools.

With support from a faculty liaison grant from the NC Small Business & Technology Development Center (SBTDC), Dr. Mostashari collaborated with Ron Duffer, Elizabeth Fake, Jacqueline Roth, and Katrece Boyd to provide guidance and mentoring throughout the eight-week consulting course. The SBTDC has helped North Carolina businesses grow and create new jobs since 1984. 

“Campbell students were best at recognizing the weakness in “quick fixes” and the impact staffing has on the company” said one advisor. “They built rapport with their clients quickly, and were eager to learn and apply their skills,” added another. The students’ clients were similarly pleased with the program results. “They listened to our input, maintained constant communication and put a lot of time into their work,” said one business owner.