Connecting the Classroom to the Boardroom

Tim Steffen, director of financial planning at Baird, offers an industry insider’s perspective on wealth management to BBA students in Associate Professor Mark Fedenia’s capstone class.
Tim Steffen, director of financial planning at Baird, offers an industry insider’s perspective on wealth management to BBA students in Associate Professor Mark Fedenia’s capstone class.

The Wisconsin School of Business is known for its innovative applied learning opportunities. Our faculty members collaborate with industry leaders to construct learning experiences that give students the chance to practice essential skills for professional and personal success, including self-awareness, teamwork, project management, information literacy, navigating uncertainty, and learning from failure.

“Applied learning deepens students’ understanding of the concepts and theories they learn in their coursework, and it shows them how a concept that may seem abstract at first actually matters very much for companies to succeed,” says Suzanne Dove, who supports educational innovations as special assistant to the dean at the Wisconsin School of Business. “Our faculty and instructional staff inspire students to ask important questions about what they observe and experience during these applied learning opportunities. When students begin to ask their own questions, they become more engaged and more motivated to learn.”

Nearly every academic department at the School offers-or is planning to offer-applied learning opportunities as part of their curricula. Here are just a few of these innovative programs:

Partnering with Baird to prepare students for wealth management careers

Mark Fedenia (BBA ’77, MS ’79, Ph.D. ’87), associate professor of finance, partnered with senior leaders from Baird, a Milwaukee-based wealth management firm with $145 billion in client assets, to create an industry-specific wealth management class, and he brought these same professionals into the classroom to teach.

“Working with professionals really helps students transition from the classroom to the business environment,” says Fedenia, who also serves as director of the Wealth Management and Financial Planning Program at the WSB. “Students have a chance to see what success looks like in a professional setting, creating a level of engagement that leads to a deeper learning experience.”

Helping address an industry talent shortage, the case-based class prepares undergraduate business majors for careers in wealth management. It is part of a sequence that makes students eligible to sit for the CFP® Certification Examination, the most prestigious certification in the field, and become Certified Financial Planners. Developed with support from the Innovation Fund, the course also emphasizes “soft skills” such as communication, relationship building, and teamwork.

“Many of my top students were looking for finance careers that would allow them to use their training to help people directly,” says Fedenia. “This course in wealth management and financial planning provides them with all the essential elements they need to follow this career path.”

When students begin to ask their own questions, they become more engaged and more motivated to learn.

— Suzanne Dove Special assistant to the dean for educational innovation at the Wisconsin School of Business

Researching multicultural markets at P&G

In Fall 2014, first-year MBA students from the Center for Brand and Product Management and the A.C. Nielsen Center for Marketing Research got a unique experience working in the consumer packaged goods new products pipeline with an industry leader—Procter & Gamble. A select group of MBA candidates traveled to P&G headquarters in Cincinnati to conduct market research to better understand the women’s African-American hair care market and to develop new product ideas based on this learning.

“We interviewed African-American women in small groups, with the goal of better understanding their hair care routines and the true tensions or issues they face, especially negative associations with their hair,” says Whitney Peiser (MBA ’16).

The students then met in teams to further discuss these new consumer insights and develop new product concepts. After each team developed several new product concepts, they each presented their best new product idea to senior P&G brand managers for evaluation and consideration for placement in P&G’s new product pipeline.

“Our applied learning course is one of the elements that differentiates us from other MBA programs,” says Mike Judge, director for the Center for Brand and Product Management at the WSB. “It exposes our students to real-world challenges and issues faced by industry professionals. We are very fortunate to work with blue-chip companies and great corporate partners to offer these learning opportunities.”

Structuring data to improve outcomes at United Airlines

Andy Nottestad (BBA ’92), United Airlines risk manager, has been a significant contributor to the WSB for many years, visiting classes, hiring interns, and sharing his knowledge and time. When United introduced a new claims tracking system to Nottestad’s group, he thought of the Wisconsin Risk Management and Insurance Program as a partner in developing a useful data management tool. United has the data and industry expertise, while the students are familiar with new dashboards and innovative analytical techniques to identify relevant relationships within the data.

Under the direction of Professor Joan Schmit (BBA ’78, MBA ’79), American Family Insurance Distinguished Chair of Risk Management and Insurance, eight MBA students and five BBA students are working as a team to find better ways to visualize data to inform strategic decisions.

“United Airlines has partnered with us because of our unbiased perspective, variety of backgrounds, and student intellect,” says Schmit. “Over the course of their project, students observe and interact with the risk management team of the company, its brokers, insurers, third-party administrators, and data-management system providers.”

When should you start talking about money with your kids?
Actuarial Science, Risk Management, and Insurance students Qian Xia (MBA ’15), Lefei Sun (MBA ’16), Simon Tang Kai (MBA ’15), and Stephanie Penny (MBA ’16) tour the United Airlines facility at O’Hare airport in Chicago so that they can help the company better visualize data.

“It is a special opportunity for students interested in risk management and insurance to practice in a real business setting,” says Qian Xia (MBA ’15). “I especially value the opportunity to work with the other MBA and BBA students. This project will bind us together, for this semester and long into the future.”

Class Notes

Class Notes

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Jim Mottern

Jim Mottern, MBA '74,

works with multinational corporations on complicated CFO and CIO issues such as cost reduction and operations improvement ... Read More »

Lisa Harris

Lisa Harris, BBA '97,

is a regional director for Sanrio, a former Target buyer, current member of the Wisconsin Business Alumni Board ... Read More »

Megan Ramey

Megan Ramey, MBA '07,

founded with her husband Kyle Ramey (MBA ’07) to inspire two-wheeled tourism in North America’s best biking cities ... Read More »