MBA Practicum Project with the University of Southern Maine
Written by Brady Davis, photography by Chris Cary.
Each year, the New England Ocean Cluster works with the University of Southern Maine's business school students on a collection of research projects designed to benefit a host of companies from the private sector with ties to the blue economy. The MBA candidates, who complete the research as part of their capstone project, are grouped in small teams and proceed to operate as though they were hired consultants. At the beginning of the semester, each group is connected with a representative from a participating company who introduces the research project and serves as a liaison to the team throughout the duration of the course. The work conducted by each team runs the gamut of market research, writing business plans, engaging and running focus groups, and supporting product development efforts. The semester culminates in a celebratory event where each group presents their work to a panel of judges, who provide constructive feedback and determine the winning project based on criteria similar to what would be used to evaluate professional consulting work.
The knowledge generated by the students is also compiled in a deliverable that is shared with their company representative. Past semesters have shown that student teams add valuable research capacity to participating companies and that the reports and recommendations generated by their work can help inform decision making relating to key company initiatives.
Previous projects have included cataloging best practices from ecotourism business models for Maine’s aquaculture industry, identifying trade opportunities with Greenland, developing dehydrated fish products for both human and pet consumption, and mapping the value chain of Maine lobster processing.
Over the course of the coming Spring 2019 semester, student teams will take on projects that include researching effective models to operate an aquaculture tour company, a market analysis of North East mussel growing regions, determining the market for high performance leisure and work boats in the US, cataloging consumer presences relating to seaweed products, analyzing what trade opportunities exist along North Atlantic shipping routes, and formulating sustainable models to recycle fishing gear.
In late April, the Spring 2019 cohort will present their consulting projects at the showcase event hosting by O’Maine Studios in downtown Portland. We would love to have the community attend, so please reach out and we will be sure to share future event details.