Marketing Education: How Academic and Business Partnerships Elevate Student Learning
Prof. Sharmila Chatterjee (SC): This is a topic dear to my heart, and one that MIT's philosophy facilitates. MIT's curriculum is emblematic of its motto 'Mens et manus' which is Latin for 'Mind and hand.' The critical role of 'Action Learning' at MIT Sloan reflects this philosophy where classroom-taught concepts and theories are applied in practice with companies worldwide.
Every semester, an enormous percentage of students enroll in action learning courses (called Action Learning Labs). Students engage in live projects to tackle business problems, devising solutions that are actually implemented by companies. Partnering companies span the spectrum from startups to multinationals such as Google, IBM, Nike, and Procter & Gamble. Companies help by supplying business challenges—and students bid on projects they want to solve. We are constantly reaching out to companies to help line up these Action Learning opportunities. Given the live nature of these projects, confidentiality is top priority and is always part of these business partnerships. Internships, which are highly prized by both students and companies, complement these assignments.
Has student participation in these experiential programs/activities produced positive feedback?
VK: Undergraduates are looking for internships and cooperative work experiences, earning credits and professional experiences, ahead of graduation—and providing direct recruitment opportunities for these students when they graduate. We highly encourage faculty to build relationships with marketing professionals—in and beyond the classroom.
On the graduate level, for MBAs with a marketing concentration, end of first-year internships give the real-world experience and practice these students demand for their work, and often second-year relationships result in permanent positions. Where doctorate degrees are awarded, we solicit businesses to present their most challenging business problems—or unmet opportunities—presenting a scenario where research can be presented to meet the need. For example, a recent research project for the world-class Georgia Aquarium sought to overcome declining attendance and revenue. Five years of customer data, competitive analysis, and other marketing information enabled five different modeling approaches to be evaluated and the results of this research were applied to media planning, ad spend, acquisition and retention, and even the time lengths of exhibits.