Bringing the Real World into the Classroom

Many students have a habit of complaining about coursework. One of the most common coursework critiques has to do with relevance. “I’m never going to need this when I get a job,” we lament. “Why would I possibly have to know subject (fill-in-the-blank),” we cry. “No one even uses (method x) anymore, why do I have to learn it?” While these claims are usually hyperbole, they do express the general anxiousness of many students who wish to gain coveted “real-world experience.”

As a management major, I share this sentiment. I’ve always found myself enjoying classes more when I can find a direct correlation with what I am interested in doing post-graduation. Lucky for me, I have found an awesome class with plenty of real-world applications. This semester, I am taking a class called Small Business Consulting (BADM 445). We have spent the first few weeks learning the basics of the consulting cycle as well as common mistakes and misconceptions about consulting. However, in the past two weeks, we have broken up into teams, heard client pitches from real businesses, and are now beginning our semester long projects with a real client.

My client for the semester is Urbana Country Club!

All of the classwork is geared towards our work with the client, meaning that every “assignment” we hand in to Professor Kurtz can (and should) also be sent to the client as meaningful information. I am directed more by my team’s student leader than the professor at this point. That is really exciting to me. By going through this process in a classroom setting, I have found that there are a few key advantages.

The first is the safety net of the university. By taking on this project within a class, my team and I have the professor as a resource to guide us along the way, as well as consistent communication from the client. They understand the stakes for both themselves and for us. In addition, I appreciate the future perks that I expect this course will offer. If I perform well this semester, not only will I receive an A in the class, but I will also have something I can talk about in future interviews. This course truly has real-world relevance because, if done correctly, we will deliver real-world, tailored solutions to a real-world client.

Being able to take advantage of these kinds of courses is critical to the process of identifying exciting potential career paths and gaining experience as an undergraduate. I highly recommend you take the time to work with your academic advisor (see my previous post on the subject) to identify your interests and how best to explore them through your curriculum. Talk soon.

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