UC Davis Launches New MBA Industry Immersion Program

UC Davis Launches New MBA Industry Immersion Program main image

The University of California, Davis Graduate School of Management has launched a new MBA Industry Immersion Program, designed to allow MBA students to work on real-world, hands-on company projects and make a difference in industry.

To learn more about the program, we spoke to H. Rao Unnuva, dean and professor at the school.

What factors led to the conception and development of this program at your school?

Several corporate recruiters we talked to said they need talented MBA students who are comfortable and effective working with those who have advanced degrees in STEM disciplines. Yet, MBA classrooms or project teams don’t have this interdisciplinary focus.

At the University of California, Davis (UC Davis), we’re fortunate to have top-ranked schools and departments in food science and technology, agriculture, veterinary medicine, biotechnology and energy. We also have a highly collaborative culture that makes it easy to design an interdisciplinary program. Our faculty, staff and industry partners tailored an innovative Industry Immersion program aligned with UC Davis’ strengths.

In these Immersion experiences, our MBA and graduate students across campus work together on real-life cases presented by senior industry leaders. Every executive who taught in the Immersions gave positive feedback, particularly pointing to the high-quality solutions developed by the interdisciplinary teams.

What type of students do you hope to attract to this program in the first year?

We sought to bring master’s or PhD students from STEM disciplines into the Immersions to team up with our MBA students to analyze problems from multiple perspectives and communicate comprehensive solutions to significant problems.

Our first year has been a resounding success—we had master’s or PhD students from 16 departments across UC Davis who participated in the Immersion experience. Now, we’re attracting greater interest from prospective MBA students interested in these fields (biotech, energy, agribusiness, technology finance) and see the advantages of our specialized Immersion experiences.

What are some of the extracurricular opportunities available to students on this program?

This year, students can go on field trips during the quarter before the deeper Immersion course, meet with executives, and learn first-hand about the latest technologies in food, agriculture, energy, wine, biotech and tech financing. We’re also designing advanced projects for student teams to work on following the Immersion course.

Students can also attend free of charge, or at a discount rate, UC Davis-sponsored industry conferences and UC Davis events, faculty seminars and research presentations across the campus in these Immersion fields.

The networking opportunities at UC Davis and our corporate partnerships in these fields are unsurpassed, and lead to career offers, summer internships, mentorships and many other valuable connections.

How will the program be delivered and what can students expect from the program on a day-to-day basis?

The Industry Immersions will expand to a three-quarter experience, followed by optional courses. The first quarter will be devoted to field trips, so students understand how industry operates (e.g. precision agriculture, sensory labs for food testing, innovations in seeds).

The second quarter focuses on in-depth, hands-on learning with industry executives in a series of three-hour class sessions involving real-life business cases and team problem solving.

The third quarter will culminate the first two quarter classes plus other subject-specific knowledge to solve a significant problem presented by industry partners.

Following this experience, students can take additional STEM electives—STEM students attending MBA classes, or MBA students taking STEM classes—to fill gaps in their knowledge.

How can students of this program take advantage of wider opportunities within the school and institution?

As one of the world’s most comprehensive universities, UC Davis offers students the option to take classes in almost any area of interest. Our collaborations with other UC Davis schools and departments participating in the Immersion experience is increasing.

There are multiple opportunities for students across campus to further their knowledge and build their network. For example, energy and biotech departments sponsor weekly colloquia with industry speakers. Finally, more UC Davis graduate students in other disciplines are showing greater interest in earning their MBA on a part-time basis.

What most excites you about the launch of this program?

We know nature poses problems that aren’t tied to any discipline e.g. our ability to feed the world’s growing population. The problem may be solved by developing superior seeds, higher-yield agricultural methods and minimizing waste, as well as engineering better food processing facilities, improving logistics systems for warehousing and distributing food without waste, or educating consumers to not waste food. It’s gratifying to see students’ eyes light up as they see the big picture of such problems.

We’re proving the benefits of bringing together interdisciplinary teams to solve pressing problems. UC Davis is ranked in the top 10 universities in the US for its contributions to the “public good”. Our Immersion experience is giving students lifelong skills to make a positive difference in the world.

What are the career opportunities for program graduates?

UC Davis MBA students who participate in the Industry Immersions are expected to find managerial and leadership roles in the industries we focus on where we know there’s high demand: food and agriculture, biotech, energy and technology finance.

These students will be well-prepared, having the experience of evaluating problems from a multidisciplinary approach, and will be attractive to companies looking for comprehensive thinkers and doers.

Is there any additional information you’d like prospective students to have?

Any MBA student interested in developing a managerial career in agriculture, food science and technology, wine, clean energy, biotech, or tech industry finance, will find UC Davis the best option because of our global leadership and top rankings in these areas. Only the University of California, Davis, can provide this experience.

Written by Niamh Ollerton

Niamh is Assistant Editor of TopMBA.com, creating and editing content for an international MBA student audience. Having gained her journalism qualification at the Press Association, London and since written for different international publications, she's now enjoying telling the stories of the business world.  

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