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K-State Today

October 21, 2022

College of Business graduate capstone's triple bottom line: Students, businesses, faculty

Submitted by Ruthie Gergeni

Last spring, Kansas State University College of Business graduate students closed their books and turned off their laptops. They had the knowledge, did the research and studied hard for all the exams. What they needed to do now was experience firsthand involvement in a project that had real-life consequences. This would require top-notch problem-solving skills, strong communication and the ability to work as part of a team.

The graduate business capstone provides all that and more.

The capstone project provides a win-win-win opportunity. It offers real-world business management experiences, fosters connection and growth to local organizations, and gives College of Business faculty the opportunity to build a network of corporate partners. It is rare that one activity produces a trifecta of positive experiences.

According to Professor Chwen Sheu, associate dean for academic programs for the College of Business, this is not a coincidence.

"In support of the College of Business Strategic Plan, the capstone course is a great mechanism for enhancing student experiential learning, providing service to our business community, and influencing business practice and knowledge," Sheu said. 

Ethan Schultz graduated in 2021 from K-State with a Bachelor of Science in statistics and data science and a minor in business and a Master of Science in data analytics in 2022. He is currently a commercial market analyst at ConocoPhillips.

"The business capstone program at K-State helped me learn how to become an effective project manager and allowed our group to make an impact in the communities our client serves," Schultz said. "The skills I learned throughout this course helped me develop as a leader and taught me how to bring out the best in my teammates. Our project success was a direct result of the kind of students that the K-State Master of Science in data analytics program recruits and is a testament to the mentorship opportunities that students have with the faculty in the College of Business."

"The MBA capstone course was an invaluable learning experience for my educational and professional career," said Kensley Fleischer, a marketing specialist at Shamrock Trading Corporation, who graduated with a Bachelor of Science in marketing in 2021 and a Master of Business Administration in 2022. "My job requires many of the same skills I learned in the course, such as managing projects, time and client relationships, all while ensuring the final deliverable is completed efficiently, effectively, and to the satisfaction of the client."

Andrea Luke earned a Master of Business Administration from K-State in 2022 and is a program manager at K-State’s Staley School of Leadership.

"The capstone project is a critical, applied learning experience that represented the culmination of all the academic learning that happened throughout the master's program," Luke said. "As a result of the capstone project, I have implemented new project management and team building strategies into my real-life job."

Since 2020, nearly 20 tenure-track faculty and instructors have been involved in capstone projects, and 26 projects have been completed. Satisfaction with partner companies is very high.

Following the many positive results experienced by Centralized Supply Chain Services, the College of Business is now working with them to provide a portion of their education/training program.

ETC Institute, a national research corporation that helps governmental organizations gather resident data to enhance community planning, plans to use the tool created in a K-State capstone project to improve data analysis in reports for local and possibly state governments across the country.

"The report compiled by the team will be immeasurably valuable to the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame as we make plans for our organization's future. The team was engaged throughout the semester and their work shows an incredible amount of time, effort, and understanding of the KSHOF's current position and options for the future."
— Kansas Sports Hall of Fame, 2022

"The presentation created a tremendous amount of buzz in our organization. Everyone was very impressed with the insights presented and the methods and processes used to complete the project. Equally valuable was the dialogue during the presentation."
— Steel and Pipe Supply, 2020

"The team did a great job researching trends and finding data that is not always easy to find. The recommendations provided were spot-on with industry standards and the results were presented in a way that was easily digestible when looking at data."
— AIB International, 2022

Businesses and students who want to learn more about K-State's graduate business capstone are welcome to contact Sheu.