Schools Lab: Where MBA Students Help Those Who Need It Most
By Brian Malkin, 2Y 2019
Among Kellogg’s most popular offerings are the Private Equity and Venture Capital Lab classes. In these courses, students have the opportunity to intern on-site at PE or VC firms in exchange for course credit. Kellogg students are always eager for chances to apply what they are learning outside the walls of the Global Hub and gain different work experience during their tenure. Over the last three academic quarters, I worked with a team of MBA students to make the case for a third lab offering: Schools Lab.
Prior to Kellogg, I held various teaching and school leadership roles with a large, national charter school network. I quickly realized the K-12 education system is designed so that all school leaders are promoted from within; that is, all principals are trained teachers. However, the gap there is that the job of a principal is vastly different from the job of a teacher. Put simply, principals need to manage a business (not a classroom), and lead a group of adults (not kids).
At Kellogg, we learn strategies that are directly applicable to the supports school principals require: managing a budget, designing a strategic plan, marketing to prospective teachers and families, communicating with and influencing key stakeholders, analyzing and visually representing academic data, the list goes on.
Given this, we set out to launch a program to provide MBA students with the opportunity to apply what they are learning by interning with local K-12 school principals for course credit.
The Schools Lab pilot program
We spent the Fall and Winter quarters conducting more than 60 meetings and interviews to validate interest and feasibility on both the supply (MBA candidates) and demand (school principals) side of the proposed program.
On the supply side, MBA students expressed excitement around the potential of working on-site at a local charter or public school with direct access to the school leader. The opportunity to make more tangible, social impact was an added bonus that differentiated our lab from the others. On the demand side, we relied on our Kellogg networks to engage principals who would welcome the support with open arms. We narrowed down our funnel to a selective, but manageable inaugural Spring program: Four MBA students each matched with a different local school principal.
The four MBA students worked on very different project scopes; yet, all involved supporting their principal on-site with a business related task. In addition to applying their learnings from the core curriculum at Kellogg, our MBA students also valued the opportunity to build skills in the following areas: influencing and building credibility as an outsider, operating efficiently in resource constrained environments, modulating messages to various stakeholder groups, and design thinking.
In the end, 4 out of 4 MBA students felt the Schools Lab Program was challenging, impactful, and would make for a solid addition to the Kellogg experience. 3 out of 4 MBA students would recommend the program to another MBA candidate or do the program again themselves. On the demand side, 4 out of 4 principals opted to renew the program for next year and also indicated they were “very likely” to refer the program to a peer principal. In addition, all four school leaders either strongly agreed or agreed with the statement, “The time I invested in the program was worth the benefit the school has received or will receive from the project”. Finally, all four school leaders also strongly agreed or agreed that the program “was effective in building their capacity in the area of the project’s focus” to indicate that the support Schools Lab provides lasts beyond the tenure of the MBA student- one of the original goals of the program.
The future of Schools Lab at Kellogg
The Schools Lab program was not all successful; there were certainly hiccups and mistakes made along the way. However, we documented those risks, along with a mitigation strategy, key learnings, and playbook for future program operation in an extensive report submitted to the Kellogg curriculum council.
It is our hope that given the impact Schools Lab had on local principals and the learning opportunity it presents for Kellogg MBA students, that it will exist for years to come.