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Experiential Learning In the MBA Classroom vs. Outside the MBA Classroom

Experiential Learning In the MBA Classroom vs. Outside the MBA Classroom main image

Sponsored by Emory University’s Goizueta Business School

Textbooks, class discussions and lectures can only go so far when it comes to capturing the complexities of the professional business workplace.

It should come as no surprise then that over 90 percent of full-time MBA programs offer at least one project-based experiential learning opportunity. Fast forward to today, and it’s likely those numbers have risen as the value of experiential learning becomes even more recognized.

At Emory University’s Goizueta Business School in Atlanta, opportunities to delve deeper and learn ‘by doing’ are at the heart of its MBA programs.

Experiential learning opportunities can help students harness their business acumen and develop a highly sought-after skillset that can serve them well throughout their careers.

To find out more about this, we spoke with those in the know at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School.

Experiential learning outside the classroom

Nowadays experiential learning isn’t just exclusively working with companies and clients – although client-based consulting projects are valuable learning opportunities which help students further enhance their business competence.

Top MBA programs such as the Full-time MBA at Goizueta Business School, which ranked in the top 25 in the QS Global MBA Rankings: United States, offer a wide range of hands-on learning opportunities that takes real-world business learning one step further.

Chis Anen is an MBA student from Goizueta Business School and is currently in the process of launching his own company.

He says the MBA gave him the opportunity to "fully satisfy his entrepreneurship-related ambitions” – from being on the board in the entrepreneurship club, to being part of the accelerator program, to sourcing companies for the pitch competition, to enrolling in the school’s entrepreneurship classes. 

But it was the entrepreneurship club and pitch competitions that played a pivotal role in helping Chis grow as an entrepreneur.

“Through the pitch competition, which I helped source the companies pitching, I was able to put on the hat of an investor.

“That experience really helped me become aware of the best practices while pitching and also gave me the viewpoint of investors so that the next time I'm pitching, I can be well prepared and make sure I’m speaking to the points that are most important to investors,” he said.

“Another great part about Goizueta’s entrepreneurship initiatives is that the students are really empowered to lead the efforts, so you get hands-on tangible experiences,” he added.

Anupama Tadanki is studying the joint MBA/MPH Program at Goizueta Business School. Much like Chis, experiential learning has played a vital role in her MBA.

Anupama is currently the Managing Director of Goizueta Impact Investors (GII), a student-run fund which provides short-term financing to social enterprises in the Atlanta area. It is an experience that she describes as being “incredibly formative.”

“It has allowed me to manage a large team for the first time […] who are working on everything from sourcing and executing meaningful investments in social enterprises, building external partnerships with Atlanta leaders, and educating the Goizueta community on the growing practice of impact investing,” she said.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, Anupama travelled to El Salvador as part of Emory’s Grounds for Empowerment incubator and support a workshop for local women in the coffee-production business. She was also able to spend almost two weeks in Russia for her global experiential module. It was both of these trips that confirmed her ambitions to live and work abroad after graduating from the MBA.

“I’ve been exposed to numerous real-world business scenarios through my Goizueta experience.

“In just over a year, I’ve worked and studied in three different continents. I’ve successfully run in-person programming and quickly pivoted to a 100 percent virtual model with no interruption.

“The MBA has really helped me build my confidence in my own people-managing, crisis navigation, and problem-solving skillset and for that I am grateful!”

Experiential learning inside the classroom

So, if experiential learning is an immersive, ‘learning by doing’ experience, how can that be achieved in a classroom?

Experiential learning is a unique opportunity to complement classroom teaching, bridge the gap between theory and practice, and bring insights to life.

“These experiential learning opportunities give our students a chance to bring leadership alive and practice in a ‘safe environment’, where they are able to get feedback, from peers and coaches, and grow,” said Lieutenant General (Ret) Ken Keen, Associate Dean for Leadership at Goizueta Business School.

Keen oversees leadership development programming at Goizueta which includes unique learning opportunities outside and inside the classroom. Goizueta MBA students can complete the U.S. Army Leader’s Reaction Course at Fort Benning and sail in the British Virgin Islands. They then learn from and reflect on these experiences in the classroom and through thoughtful discussions with leadership coaches.

It is important that you can reflect on what you have learned, recognize the impact your learning has, as well as what means to be a leader when it comes to finding solutions to real-world business problems.

Written by Stephanie Lukins

As the Head of Sponsored Content for TopMBA.com and TopUniversities.com, Stephanie creates and publishes a wide range of articles for universities and business schools across the world. She attended the University of Portsmouth where she earned a BA in English Language and an MA in Communication and Applied Linguistics.

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