Max MaikenOne of the unique aspects of our curriculum in the A.C. Nielsen Center is a course called Current Topics. Our center director, Kristin Branch, teaches the course which is delivered as a mix of classroom instruction and hands-on, experiential learning. This semester’s Current Topics was especially engaging and we covered a lot of ground. Personally, I love how the class allows us to creatively blend our MBA coursework with real world marketing problems which gives us a competitive advantage when preparing for the business world. 

We started the semester of running. During our first meeting as a class, we learned that we would be participating in an industry seminar hosted by Ken Coogan. Ken’s enthusiasm for the world of insights and analytics and the community he brought together set the tone for an exciting semester. As students we had the opportunity to present to the group of industry professionals on a hypothetical research project which was a great way for first and seconds year students to learn from each other’s experiences and receive some feedback from the pros in the field. 

Among the highlights of the class are the company visits we get to go on. This semester we took day trips to Tyson Foods in Chicago, IL and Kohls in Menomonee Falls, WI. I thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Kohls because of the unique presentations given by the insights team sharing how they’re work impacts multiple business units and decisions. The world of insights and analytics is enormous so it’s essential for us as students to see how companies use tools and techniques from our coursework to make better decisions. The most impressive side of our visits are the depth of the projects we learn about and the magnitude of the insights gleaned. 

The pinnacle of each semester’s class is always the Center’s  External Advisory Board meeting. The Center has a jaw-dropping list of companies represented by what many of my classmates now consider to be industry celebrities. Networking with the Board is akin to an industry red-carpet but for a small family of curious and engaging professionals that love the work they do. This passion is contagious, and the active support of our learning outcomes goes beyond the meeting and networking events. For example, Julian Lopez and Lisa Rodriguez from USAA came back to campus and hosted an exercise that put the class in the shoes of the USAA marketing team to discuss how we would actually bring a new marketing strategy to life. Having access to this caliber of professionals that sincerely care about student’s growth and development is a such a gift. Their commitment is truly admirable. 

Overall, Current Topics has done an excellent job of bringing in and taking us to companies that are practice pushing marketing research forward. Engaging with industry professionals is probably one of the most effective teaching techniques that I’m happy to have experienced. These sessions have helped us see how the field comes to life beyond the classroom and allows us to see into the insights and the people they effect. The best classes are able to bridge the papers to the people and this is one of them.