The University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business welcomed its new Part Time MBA students with a challenge to “do more with less” — through improvisation.
The test: team-improvise a catapult against the clock from a limited supply of office materials including binders, paperclips, rubber bands and No. 2 pencils. A shootout for the farthest shot followed, as the teams competed during Smith’s Part-Time MBA Program orientation on Aug. 15-16, 2015 in the Van Munching Hall atrium.
The contest’s real value, though, was “the challenge to each participant’s mental agility, resilience, ease with ambiguity and the ability to overcome mental blocks of creative problem solving — all qualities of effective business leaders who need to be adept at improvisation as well as planning,” said management professor Oliver Schlake, who devised and directed the activity.
Both orientation days further delivered logistical information about the program and opportunities to network with returning students. Women comprise 46 percent of the incoming, 205-member class. The students’ median age is 29 with an average of five years of post-graduate work experience. Ten percent of them have military backgrounds.
Schlake and faculty colleague Joe Bailey separately engaged the students – about 100 each day — in “mini-mastery” classes. Bailey led “systems thinking” sessions. Schlake opened his activities with a presentation that introduced students “to the art of improvisation” in business.
The mini-mastery concept is a staple in Smith’s EMBA program and debuted in the 2015 Part-Time MBA orientation to give the students “more of a taste of curricular experiences and challenges ahead,” said Brian Bartholamay, associate director of Smith’s Master’s Program office in Washington, D.C., and one of the orientation’s organizers.
Smith leaders including Dean Alex Triantis and Vice Dean Joyce Russell welcomed the students making up cohorts who will study through Smith’s Shady Grove, Washington D.C., and Baltimore centers.
This post first appeared on the Smith school website on August 25, 2015.