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Technology MBA projects make a difference

August 5, 2009

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Working full-time while pursuing an MBA can be a gruelling challenge, forcing students to focus almost exclusively on their studies.

During spring semester, however, SFU Business professor Andrew Gemino challenged his project-management students in the management of technology (MOT) MBA program to look beyond themselves.

He asked them to create and complete a project that would serve a community, regardless of size, from their own class to the entire community of people living with a chronic disease.

“The idea was to learn by doing—with others and for others,” says Gemino. “It’s about groups of students making a difference, and I think it speaks volumes about the type of MBA student we have at SFU and the type of experience we’re trying to provide for our students.”

Divided into nine groups, the students came up with an interesting mix of projects. They included a 20K hike on Juan de Fuca Marine Trail that raised $500 for an MOT MBA bursary and a new “water cooler” website, www.sfuyou.ca, for their fellow MBA students.

SFU Business staffer and MOT MBA student, Eric Leung, and his group established Project SmallFeet to reduce their greenhouse-gas carbon footprint by 10 per cent in one month.

“Before the project, we didn’t even know what a carbon footprint was,” says Leung. Team members tried various strategies, including setting their home thermostats to 13 C during the day, turning down the hot-water heater temperature, replacing incandescent with compact fluorescent bulbs and turning off all appliances from a central power bar.

The results: an overall 14.6-per-cent team reduction in their carbon footprint and a series of informative blogs (www.projectsmallfeet.com) discussing and documenting how they did it.

All of the projects involved nine assignments, including proposals, work-breakdown structures, charters, communication plans, status reports and closing documents on lessons learned.

And Gemino says all of them brought added value to both the students and their community of choice.

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