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MBA students join local business consulting program

By Michael Newsom

University of Mississippi

The University of Mississippi’s Master of Business Administration students will offer consulting expertise to local businesses beginning this fall through the UM Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

MBA students selected to assistantships in the Student Business Consultant program will work directly with Oxford and Lafayette County businesses to find creative solutions to their challenges. The program has been operating with undergraduate students, but last year, two MBA students were picked to participate in a special project for the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

Improving entrepreneurship

While the Oxford community continues to be a destination for entrepreneurs, administrators at the CIE continue to look for ways to improve strengthen the area’s “entrepreneurial ecosystems,” said Clay Dibrell, an associate professor of management, holder of the William W. Gresham Jr. Entrepreneurial Professorship and executive director of the CIE.

“Our goal is to provide the most capable graduate and undergraduate business students and match them with entrepreneurial ventures who may need assistance in areas such as the best way to manage cash flow, social media marketing or a feasibility analysis for a new product offering,” Dibrell said.

Services conducted by the Ole Miss student business consultants are free to the business and funded through a grant given to the CIE. Business owners in Oxford and Lafayette County who want to learn more about the program, or to hire the student business consultants, can visit http://cie.olemiss.edu/.

Depending on the scope of work, each project lasts between 30 and 90 days, and students work directly with their clients 8-10 hours per week. The experience is extremely beneficial for students, Dibrell said.

“This is a win for the MBA students who will have an opportunity to apply the concepts they have learned in class and a win for the businesses who are looking to grow their bottom line,” he said. “In the future, we would like to expand the student business consultant program to more communities across the state to help improve their local economies.”

Rewarding challenge

Students who have participated in the program agree with Dibrell’s assessment.

Colin Wattigney, one of the MBA students chosen to work as a consultant, has been helping UMMC with a project. For the last eight months, he and others have been creating a commercialization plan for a new a noninvasive liver diagnostic tool, invented by UMMC’s Dr. Andrew Smith.

The work is challenging and rewarding, said Nicholas Diller, another MBA student selected to work with Wattigney on the project.

“This was more than filling out a report,” Diller said. “It’s something you want to put a lot of effort into and apply what you learn in class.”