Concordia University, Nebraska Offers New Courses
Concordia University, Nebraska (www.cune.edu) recently added new courses for MBA students with an emphasis in Organizational Development. The Organizational Development Clinic was established by College of Graduate Studies Dean Jon Moberly, in partnership with MBA Program Director Dr. Shannon Leinen and instructor Joel Christiansen. It is a 3-class series with each lasting 8 weeks, during which time students are matched up with a local entrepreneur, small business, and non-profit organization. They effectively become consultants, completing a strategic plan to achieve the objective(s) outlined by the client. Each student spends 100 documented hours working for the client under their guidance as well as the guidance of the instructor assigned to that course.
To find out more about the Organizational Development Clinic, we interviewed Dr. Leinen, Professor Christiansen, and Erica Lamm, a student who just completed it.
Give us a brief synopsis of how the program works.
Dr. Leinen: Clients that fit within one of the three academic areas of emphasis are selected through an application process. First, the client completes and submits the application, and then we conduct an interview. Upon acceptance the client is introduced to the instructor for the class, puts together a SWOT analysis and prioritization of issues the class should investigate, and develops a plan for the students to really get to know the client and what they “do” through an experience, a tour, or a demonstration process of the product or service the client is selling.
On the first night of the class, the client pitches to the students, presenting what they want to accomplish. The students then help the client investigate anything and everything related to those objectives throughout the duration of the class, compiling those findings and their feedback together in a comprehensive plan to deliver to the client on the final night.
What clients have you worked with to date?
Dr. Leinen: Over the past three years we’ve worked with a diverse range of clients, including Men with Dreams (Nonprofit, Lincoln), Rejuvenate Studios (Skin Care, Seward), The Second Closet (Thrift Store, Seward), Bottlerocket Brewery (Lounge/Brewery, Seward/Lincoln), Lippy’s BBQ (Restaurant, Malcolm), Camp Luther (Nonprofit, Schuyler), Classy and Sassy with Anne Ecklund (Clothing Line, Lincoln), Camp-A-Nation (Online Small Business, Based in Lincoln), and KZUM Radio (Lincoln).
What is the impact this program has in our community at large, and more specifically in the local business community?
Dr. Leinen: What’s great about the program is that it connects our students with real-life professionals. Also, our students are adult learners with real-life business experience who are already working in the field and have that experience to share with our clients. This is a great partnership for everyone to learn. Our students love having the real-life consulting experience and our clients love having a real presentation and document to present to future financers, backers, and internal supporters.
Prof. Christiansen: I believe it has had a very positive, ripple effect. First of all, it builds a trusting relationship between Concordia University and the client. Clients who are just beginning a business, have no business or strategic plan, or need help in critical areas rely on the expertise of the MBA students to create a plan that will put them in a better position to succeed. It’s a win-win for all involved.
What is the impact this program has on the students who participate?
Prof. Christiansen: I am proud to say that the student’s responses to the course have been overwhelmingly positive. Students not only get an opportunity to apply their knowledge, expertise and professional experience, they learn the value of collaboration and cross-collaboration. I would also add that it is very satisfying on a personal and professional level to create a business and strategic plan that serves the greater good of the client.
Ms. Lamm: This course/program impacted me profoundly. I learned so much more about running a business than in any other course because we created a business plan together. As someone who wants to consult, this was right up my alley. Also, the class itself was interactive and collaborative, which was great practice for working on a team or leading a team.
What do students take away from participation in this program?
Prof. Christiansen: There is much personal and professional gratification in knowing that the plan they developed for our client will endure. It may have even saved a business, but at the very least put it in a better position to grow and be more successful
Ms. Lamm: Learning how to write a business plan is a very real skill that I took away from this experience. But beyond that, I learned how to work with a client and how to work with fellow students/team members to collaborate in order to achieve a high-quality result.
What do you see happening with the program in the next five years?
Dr. Leinen: Currently the classes take place on our Fallbrook campus in Lincoln, and we often do work on-site for the client. Since we offer our MBA program fully on-campus in the classroom, fully online, and a mix of the two to meet the needs of our students, we would like to expand our reach and offer it as an option online as well. It would open up the opportunity to more students and allow us to serve more clients each year.
What do you want students considering participation in the future as a part of their degree program/coursework to know about the Organizational Development Clinic?
Ms. Lamm: I would tell students that this takes a lot of what we’ve been learning and applies it to a real business. It is the most practical course they will ever take.
Prof. Christiansen: It’s a learning experience that is meaningful and impactful. Our students are engaged, enlightened and empowered. They see the benefit in what they are called to do and be for the client.
What do you want businesses/organization considering participation in the future to know about the Organizational Development Clinic?
Prof. Christiansen: It is a great opportunity to partner with Concordia University and its MBA program to have a detailed business plan developed by students who are passionate, focused and committed to serving the greater good of the client.
Ms. Lamm: The students do a good job, but more than that, they put their heart into it. We are all so committed to the growth of the businesses/organizations we work with. They are more than just clients or homework. All of the focus is on one specific business or organization; we develop a working relationship and invest our time and resources in delivering something we can be proud of and that can be used by that client upon completion. Their success is our success.
If you are a student considering pursuing an MBA degree with an emphasis in Organizational Development and would like to learn more about this program, contact CUNE College of Graduate Studies at (888) 505-2863, visit the office in Lincoln at 570 Fallbrook Blvd., Suite 203, or apply at www.cune.edu/admission/apply.
If you are a local entrepreneur, small business owner, or affiliated with a non-profit organization and would like to apply or learn more, contact Shannon Leinen at Shannon.Leinen@cune.edu.