Thanks to a new partnership, University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business MBA students have the opportunity to complete their capstone project by working on a real-world project for a major corporation.
The partnership is part of a new course offered each spring semester, Omnichannel Capstone – Industry-Centric Applications. Kim Sovell, senior participating adjunct faculty member, teaches the course; Craig Herkert, an omnichannel strategy expert, former CEO, Opus College executive fellow and adjunct faculty member, serves as a facilitator.
Omnichannel is about ensuring that an organization’s physical presence melds seamlessly with its digital presence, fully embracing innovation in emerging technologies.
The course was first offered in spring 2022, when students worked on a confidential omnichannel project for Target Corp.
“The project involved something that was vexing to Target executives that they wanted to get an outside view on, and our very talented students were able to give them that,” Herkert said.
The students presented their findings to Target executives, who appreciated the input. Sovell said the students identified areas that Target itself had not considered.
“It was such a pleasure for Target to host a talented team of St. Thomas business students and help provide their insights into an open-ended business topic,” Target Director of Store Operations Adam Lee said. “They did a great job at researching current industry trends, identifying customer pain points, and providing a recommendation on what the company could look into next. They gave us so many great ideas to think about.”
In the upcoming class next spring, students will again be working with Target on an omnichannel project. Sovell expects to provide real-world experience in other industries in the future, such as hospitality, financial services and health care.
“I’ve always believed that learning by application helps students answer their own questions. It stimulates intellectual effort that inspires students to challenge themselves,” Sovell said. “All the courses that students take and then apply what they learned to a real-world project is very rewarding to them. Working with Target raised the bar. Our students who take courses like this will be more prepared than ever to make that leap into industry or to the next promotion.”
One of the students last spring, Tony Spain ’22 MBA, works at Target and leveraged his class experience for a promotion to director of inventory analysis.
“I ended up learning a lot more about retail. The project gave me cause to evaluate the operations of other retailers (and even some non-retail operations) for benchmarking,” he said. “It gave me the opportunity to practice the skills gained in courses like Emerging Technology – looking at the horizon for disruption and letting that guide our research. It was a great lab for seeing omnichannel come to life.”
In addition to his MBA, Spain earned a Graduate Certificate in Omnichannel Strategy.
Katie Schoessow ’23 MBA, who also took the course as part of the Graduate Certificate in Omnichannel Strategy, was able to apply right away what she learned in the Omnichannel Capstone – Industry-Centric Applications to her current position as technology manager at PM&J, a manufacturer of pet beds, fabric, apparel and home goods.
“This project taught me how to think so much bigger and really push the edges to do research and see what competitors are doing and where the marketplace is going,” she said. “The course was different from any other course that I have taken so far. It pushed me out of my comfort zone, which allowed me to grow a ton both as a student and a professional.”
In addition to expanding the course to real-world projects with other companies, Sovell hopes that the Target partnership will lead to the corporation providing projects for undergraduate courses as well.
“I’m deeply appreciative of the support that we’ve received from Target,” she said.