What is experiential learning at Fuqua?
Experiential learning is a part of the Fuqua curriculum that involves hands-on learning outside of the classroom, and it provides a great platform to interact with and potentially help solve real-world problems as a business school student. It also provides the opportunity to apply in-class learning during the term while you are still in school and have easier access to all your classmates and professors! This kind of hands-on experience helps add to the overall Fuqua experience and cements your classroom learnings more strongly.
There are many experiential learning programs at Fuqua. Three of these include the Fuqua Client Consulting Practicum (FCCP), New Venture Entrepreneurship program, and the Mentored Study program. Each has its own practices and timelines. FCCP is done over one semester (two terms) and a student earns six credit hours. New Ventures is broken down into several classes, each with three credit hours, and you can choose to participate in additional entrepreneurship courses from thereon. Mentored Study is also a semester-long course, and a student earns three credit hours. Additionally, you should keep in mind that a maximum of 15 credits can be used towards graduation from experiential learning programs.
Here is my experience in Mentored Study.
What is Mentored Study?
Mentored Study allows students to work with companies located in and around the Durham and Triangle area. These companies are usually small or medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that have a project where Fuqua students can pitch in and contribute while pursuing learning objectives that align with career or personal interests.
The program usually begins in the spring for first-year students and is offered as an elective. There is an information session at the end of Fall Term 2 and a list of available potential projects with the companies is shared with the students. You can pursue a project that is exciting and presents an opportunity for you to learn new things. After reviewing this “Fuqua Facilitated List,” you decide which project you desire the most and then you reach out directly to the listed mentor to request a meeting to explore a potential project. If you mutually agree to move forward, then you can enroll in the program with that project.
There is also a second way to get a Mentored Study project. This method is called the Student Sponsored project where essentially the student arranges a project they want to be part of and then brings it to the Fuqua faculty for approval.
Mentored study will last both spring terms and sometimes, students continue working with the clients through the next fall of their second year, but it’s a choice whether you want to continue the program or try something new. A student receives three credit hours for each enrollment in the program.
What is my experience with Mentored Study?
Personally, I loved working in the program. It leads to a very close collaboration with the company and the team and your inputs can really be valued and taken into account. Given that you will be the lead on this from Fuqua (usually projects are one or two students maximum per project), it will also present a tremendous learning and client-facing experience. My personal favorite part has been getting exposure to an entirely different industry and way of thinking about marketing business as I go through the process.
There are no exams associated with Mentored Study but there are progress reports that are to be submitted at Fuqua regarding the kind of work you do. There are two mandatory reports to be submitted (a mid-term progress report and a final end-of-term report) that help measure many different things as you go through the program. Also, there are monthly catchups with our instructors for experiential learning at Fuqua to provide updates and discuss any matters that have come up.
What were my takeaways?
Mentored Study is a great way to learn different working cultures and how to manage expectations the right way. Working with diverse teams from all over the world, managing stakeholder expectations, and learning about the different leadership nuances were key takeaways for me. Another big value was to have hands-on experience with ownership of and responsibility for driving business decisions. I was able to apply my classroom knowledge to help businesses grow and make strategic decisions which was a great, rewarding experience.
Is Mentored Study right for you?
This is where I will use the classic MBA response—it depends. Mentored Study is designed to provide a certain set of hands-on experiences (such as but not limited to ownership, SME business exposure, etc.) but it excludes things like international travel (something that FCCP can offer depending on international travel restrictions) or launching your own venture (like New Ventures offers). Therefore, based on what you are looking for at Fuqua, Mentored Study can either be just another elective you didn’t have time to take or a great learning experience to build upon in your career.