Innovation is one of the hallmarks of the Rady School. While it lends itself to entrepreneurism, which is core to the Rady School brand, innovation is also necessary in the corporate world, in order for a business to be a leader in the industry. For me, finding opportunities for innovation within an existing organization is my goal, which made the Corporate Track of the Lab to Market (L2M) Series a perfect addition to my MBA curriculum.
Instructor Michael Meyer coordinated six different sponsored projects from which students could choose for their L2M project. It was an interesting mix of real business problems and questions ranging from social enterprises to pharmaceuticals to entertainment. With a background in biotechnology, I wanted to venture out of my comfort zone and explore an industry that was less familiar. After all, when will there be a better time or opportunity to experiment and learn about different fields than in school?
From the get-go, the Fiji Kindergarten Project stood out to me. The Global TIES team at the Jacobs School of Engineering is working with the Loloma Foundation to design and build an earthquake and hurricane resistant school building for children in emerging and developing communities. The team’s pilot initiative is focused on providing a kindergarten in a small village on the island of Taveuni, Fiji. While the engineering students have the formal training and technical skill, they needed the business acumen to complement the project in order to expand its effort from a single-site project into a sustainable social enterprise capable of bringing early childhood care, education and sustainably engineered technology to more communities in need around the world.
My time here at Rady has truly been an incredible experience for me. Thus, the idea of helping fill that educational gap for these communities was very exciting. I was very fortunate to find a like-minded group of classmates who were passionate about this project. We were thrilled once we learned Professor Mandy Bratton from the Jacobs School welcomed our Rady team to be part of the Fiji Kindergarten Project.
Collaborating with the engineering students on this project has been inspiring. Their innovative design and creative ideas are complex, yet practical. Our combined team knows it is our responsibility to create a solid business plan to ensure this exceptional product finds success in our target market. The Rady School MBA team had fun generating ideas around creative funding methods to make this project scalable and sustainable. However, every endeavor has its challenges. As we began to work out the kinks of our funding strategies and their financial and operational feasibility, tragedy hit the Fijian Islands.
In late February, Cyclone Winston devastated the country, leaving families homeless and torn away from their livelihood. The village in which we hoped to build in June 2016, is now completely gone in the aftermath of the storm. Because this incident is at the front of our minds and the Fijian people in our hearts, we, as a team, are even more motivated to launch this Fiji Kindergarten Program, which will not only provide early education, but also structural stability to the Fijian community.
In our business plan, we hope to leverage the engineering students’ expertise paired with our strategies which emphasize helping the local people learn how to sustainably build their homes so that their village can withstand future natural disasters. Through this process, we have connected closer to the people of Fiji and hope to have an impact in the rebuilding of the nation.
The L2M Corporate Track gives real life context to the concepts we learn in the classroom and allows us to put these concepts into action. What began as a curriculum requirement, has become a mission to make a significant impact in our world today.
Michelle David (’16) is a second year full-time MBA student at the Rady School of Management and is the former Vice President of Operations for the Rady Student Board (2015-2016). She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Microbiology from UC San Diego and currently works in the biotechnology industry in operations management.