Why do an Independent Study?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABy Jeff Clement, a first year PT MBA student at the DC campus.

Smith offers great opportunities for Part-Time MBA students to complete an independent study as part of their curriculum.  A maximum of six BUXX759 independent study credit hours can be applied to the program of study, but these six hours can be some of the hardest hitting hours on your transcript, allowing you to focus on an area that you are pursuing sooner than the elective schedule might otherwise allow you.

I am working on an independent study project under the course heading BUMK 759 with Dr. Bob Krapfel, and I can already tell that it will be one of my pivotal experiences here at Smith.  As I sat in a few of my classes, I thought to myself “a lot of the things we’re learning in class could be used to improve my organization at work!”

The more I thought about the problems my organization faced, the more it began to sound like a marketing problem.  We needed to clarify our customer value proposition, to nail down a positioning statement, and so on.  With Dr. Bob’s help, I defined the problem a little better and requested to create a marketing strategy for independent study credit.

The process to get it approved as an independent study was very straightforward, and everyone at Smith was very helpful.  I was able to define my own timeline for the project, and focus on the issues that interest me to a much higher degree than even an elective class would allow.  Due to the nature of the project, I found myself pulling in concepts from BUSI 662 Leadership and Teamwork, BUSI 630 Data Models and Decisions, BUSI 650 Marketing Management and BUSI 690 Strategic Management.

Due to some “office politics” I was initially not going to really tell anybody at work for fear of ruffling feathers, but decided that “he who dares, wins”.  As expected, a few people did not like what the report said, but my boss and his boss both said “this is what we needed, but we didn’t know it yet”.  Over a few weeks, even some of my critics realized that it wasn’t personal and started asking me questions.  Some of my graphs started popping up on their slides during meetings, and phrases from the report were being thrown around.  Little by little, my independent study report was creating some positive changes around the office.

I would encourage almost any Smith student to do an independent study, and not to wait until the end of your second year.  Begin to leverage your MBA now in your current position and by creating experience for your resume!  Choose a faculty member who will challenge your ideas and force you to grow.  Choose a topic or problem that you don’t already know the answer to.  You should have moments where you’re asking “how am going to solve this?!”  That’s how you know you’re learning.

Jeffrey Clement is a first year DC PTMBA planning to graduate in December 2014.  He graduated from Georgia Tech in 2008 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and is active-duty Logistics Officer in the US Marine Corps.  He is currently stationed at Marine Barracks Washington, DC.