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Ka Bao Lee

Experiential Learning Complements Classroom Teachings

by Ka Bao Lee Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The best way to learn is by doing. As an MBA student at the Wisconsin School of Business, there is no shortage of opportunities to learn by doing. Experiential learning opportunities present themselves in the classroom, and outside of the classroom.

In the classroom, you’ll read the cases, do the problem sets, and simulate the operations. This allows you to build a good set of foundational skills but you’ll put those skills to use when you start working with real companies, providing them with real solutions. Many of the classes, no matter your Specialization, will include an experiential learning component. That usually means working on a project for a company that relates to the topic of your class. This allows you to immediately apply and practice your classroom learnings.

Outside the classroom, some students are offered semester-long or year-long project assistantships that require you to work with a business or organization. These projects can range from doing some marketing research to analyzing financial information. In addition to project assistantships, each Center may have independent consulting projects that are brought to them by their Board members or recruiting companies. This provides yet another opportunity for students to learn by doing.

As a second year Wisconsin MBA student, I have had my share of experiential learning opportunities. My experiences have complemented what I’ve learned in the classroom, and have only enhanced my interest in classroom materials. The experiences have also provided me with valuable insights into real business problems, and creative ways of approaching and solving them.  

In my classes, I’ve been a part of multiple projects that involved working with local businesses. The types of businesses I’ve worked with and the problems I’ve encountered have differed but I’ve been able to learn from all of them. Some of the businesses I’ve worked with included a chocolate shop, a brewery, a non-profit arts organization, a community center, and others. Most of the marketing and brand classes involved projects that included coming up with a marketing strategy for the company. This meant conducting primary and secondary research to better understand the problem or identify an opportunity. Data analysis were also sometimes preformed to support final recommendations. As part of a new product development class, I’ve also had the opportunity to consult with entrepreneurs and provide them a direction on who to target with their new product.   

I’ve also been fortunate enough to have some experiential learning opportunities outside the classroom as well. My first project assistantship, I worked with an internationally known printmaker to come up with a marketing plan for the business. Recently, I worked on an independent consulting project for a Board member of the Center for Brand and Product Management. The project involved a marketing audit, understanding effective marketing tactics, and making marketing recommendations for a company.

Experiential learning has shaped my experience here at Wisconsin for the better. Learning by doing allow students to practice what they learn, while allowing them to flex their analytical and strategic abilities. It also provides valuable and needed experience to set them up for success for their future careers.