When the Milwaukee Health Department wanted to help reduce the cases of foodborne illnesses and improve sanitation in city restaurants, it turned to EMBA students from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee Executive MBA Program.
And did they deliver.
They navigated the challenges of developing a food grading system, which has helped other cities decrease foodborne illnesses. Working in collaboration with the city and restaurant industry, the students created an algorithm for an objective scoring tool that uses A, B, and C grades to indicate code compliance. In 2017, the city implemented the new system.
The project offers one successful example of EMBA students at work as part of the program’s integrated project requirement. In another example, Feeding America rolled out their EMBA team’s solution to distribution and labeling issues nationwide. And in yet another instance, Independence First expanded its ability to deliver specially equipped vehicles to its customers thanks to team recommendations.
Now in its sixth year, this capstone effort unleashes the expertise of EMBA students on key initiatives of local non-profit and public organizations. It challenges students to make use of all they learned in the program, as well as reinforcing the impact of that knowledge, says Adam Wickersham, EMBA director at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee.
“We wanted to show that what we are teaching students counts,” he says.
The concept also energized the community and alumni, who are eager to work with student teams, says Wickersham. This year, 24 organizations identified potential projects.
Students start the 10-month project in the third of their five class blocks when each team vets three to four proposals. They talk to the board, discuss the scope of work, and vote to select the final project. A faculty member helps guide the teams while they conduct the work. They present their findings just before graduation.
“Students love it,” he says. “It’s a highlight. They know that they have given back. They know that what they are doing is important, and they actually get to see the impact that they have had.”
With the success of the integrated project, the program added a new experience–a 24-hour case marathon–where students assume different roles, make decisions without all the information, and face crisis situations. In other opportunities, they travel to the Kohler Experiential Learning Center for boot camp and take part in a simulation for an operations capstone.
These experiences play a critical role for students, says Wickersham.
“There is no book that can teach you how to deal with all these different scenarios,” he says. “I think these are some of the distinguishing features of an EMBA.”