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Experiential Learning – Community Service Initiative – JMSB MBA Elective Credits for Consulting Community Non-Profits

By Viviene Ogugua, MBA '18
September 26, 2018
By Beth McKenna

When I entered the MBA program, my hope was that this wouldn’t be just about school and the job I would get at the end of it; but that it would be a life experience into which I would immerse myself. To that end, I sought electives that would challenge and inspire me. The CSI elective stood out as one that would tick both those boxes, as well as satisfy my personal philosophy of the importance of giving back in one form or another. All the students who had completed a CSI project considered the elective to be one of the highlights of the MBA program. I sought out the program lead, Dave McKenzie, whose passion was infectious and whose commitment was reassuring, and made it clear that I would be applying for a project.

I chose the elective to create a Marketing and Communications plan for Queen Elizabeth’s Health Complex for a number of reasons: it was a project in healthcare and in keeping with my professional background; it is an establishment, not only in my neighbourhood, but one that my family and I had visited; it was an opportunity to work in marketing, one of my weaker domains, and therefore an opportunity for personal growth.

There were several challenges that my partner, Aleksey Cameron, and I faced during the project. For example, there was conflict amongst key stakeholders and they did not fully engage in the project. This limited the scope of our study. We also experienced trials around the collection, collation and interpretation of primary research data. Perhaps the most daunting challenge was that whilst the mandate called for a marketing plan, there were, in fact, more fundamental issues around the organisation’s identity, vision and strategy that needed to be addressed before such a plan could be developed.

Although the challenges were many, meeting and overcoming these challenges led to some of the main benefits of undertaking this elective. Through this project, I earned “business chops” by having the courage of my convictions to deliver an altered, but well thought-out and well-received plan that included both strategic and marketing elements. It required us to carry out a number of brainstorming sessions and to think outside of the box. It afforded me first-hand experience of non-profit organisations who do so much with so little – there is much to be learned from these organisations such as the persistence and ingenuity required to make things happen. I was able to use much of my classroom learnings from marketing, managerial accounting, strategy and organisational behaviour classes. My consulting experience with the Concordia Small Business Consulting Bureau, another experiential elective, was especially useful. Finally, there was gratification in being able to help the organisation. This was not just a “school project” – our efforts represented a genuine contribution to the community.

I would wholeheartedly recommend the CSI elective. With so much focus on the corporate world, this is an opportunity for MBA students to contribute to the non-profit organizations that prop up so much of society. It gives access to a different business world view that is sobering and inspiring at the same time.

When I was a training doctor, having spent the first two years either in front of a chalk board or a cadaver, I recall the excitement of going into the wards and putting all that I had learned into practice and realising that I had grown in knowledge and confidence. It was a similar feeling with the CSI practicum. That and the fact that I was also giving back and contributing to Montreal, my newly chosen home, add up to an experience I will always cherish.

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