Next Gen MBA's consulting focus shifts student perspectives

Next Gen MBA

NextGen consulting students, like Kathryn Heeg (MBA '21), used Zoom and Microsoft Teams to connect in and out of class.

“The course got our minds going and got us thinking like consultants,” says Madisyn Fairchild (BA ’20, MBA ’21).

This fall, she was among the first students to experience the Next Generation MBA and its distinctive classes. One standout is a three-week consulting course taught by Senior Ignatian Lecturer Stacy Neier Beran that featured alumni co-educators from top consulting firms.

The course breaks down misconceptions about the consulting industry and introduces MBA students to crucial consulting concepts and ideas. It also is part of students’ preparation for the next Business Consulting class, which is a full-blown consulting project for a real client.

Key takeaways

The NextGen MBA and the consulting mini-course are rooted in giving students the tools to succeed post-grad, wherever their careers take them.

“There is an emphasis on skills like leadership development, team building, and team management,” says Fairchild. “We’re not just being trained to fit into one mold for one career path. We’re learning how to adjust to different environments, advocate for ourselves on a team, and use the tools given to us to figure things out on our own post-grad.”

A key takeaway for Neier Beran’s students is the idea of taking the moonshot – zooming out from a business problem as far as possible to put biases aside and take challenges as they come. “I wanted to provide a place where students can practice ‘how’ to think and not ‘what’ to think,” says Neier Beran.

“This helps us to ask the right questions and find the right solutions,” says Kathryn Heeg (MBA ’21). “Often we get the right answer to the wrong question. Taking the moonshot helps us define the question first, then start looking for creative solutions.”

The class also dispelled the stereotype of consulting being a stuffy career, says Irene Keselman (BA ’20, MBA ’21), by focusing on human-centered, creative consulting styles.

“With the guidance of the professor, we tackled so much over a short period,” she says.

Engaging alumni

Each week, Quinlan alumni from top consulting firms visited class to share their experience and provide a real-world perspective to what they were learning. Rather than calling them guest speakers, Neier Beran stresses their role as co-educators, contributing to the overall value of the course. Over the span of three weeks, through synchronous class sessions and asynchronous content, students interacted with alumni from Salesforce, Accenture, Deloitte, Slalom, and Huron Consulting.

“I was excited to get a first-hand perspective on what consulting is all about and hear from people in the field,” says Keselman.

Nathan Vander Zanden (MBA ’21) adds, “All of our guests came from relevant, impactful companies. They shared personal stories about their careers and gave us insight into the challenges they faced early on and what it took for them to excel in their roles.”

Each co-educator brought their own unique career journey and were open to connecting with students to help them in their careers.

Leveraging business tools

Neier Beran strives to give her students as many tangible business skills and experiences as possible. Her consulting class utilizes Microsoft Teams, Salesforce Trailhead, and other tools.

“Using Microsoft Teams in the class was a great opportunity to get more exposure to a platform that is so common in business,” says Keselman. “The class makes it feel more like a workplace than a class.”

The value of Salesforce Trailhead and other tools stood out to students who are already business professionals.

“As a working professional, the tools we used in class are immediately transferable to the workplace,” says Vander Zanden. “The class reaffirmed what I had already been doing in my career and continued to build on those skillsets. I have been able to take something away from every course in the NextGen and apply it to my day-to-day work.”

Heeg adds, “The class introduced me to resources I wouldn’t have sought on my own. Leaders need to stay abreast of the latest trends, and all of these resources from class will help me to do that.”

Launching careers

Building off the tools and resources from classes, Next Gen students are prepared to launch their careers as leaders. Says Keselman, “NextGen and Stacy’s consulting class will help me to kickstart my career. All of the experience I’ve gained and the people I’ve met will help to open doors to new opportunities.”

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