Immersion Learning

"An Invaluable Experience"

by Alessandra Zielinski, MBA ‘11 (3/31/14)
Alessandra Zielinski, MBA ‘11One of the main reasons I was attracted to the Johnson School at Cornell University was due to the immersion program and emphasis placed on real-world learning. Experiential learning programs were a highlight of my undergraduate experience and, transitioning from the non-profit sector, I knew I would benefit from a hands-on approach. I chose to pursue the Sustainable Global Enterprise (SGE) immersion with the Consulting Program as a way to combine my passion with business training that focused on problem solving and executive communication.

In Professor Nate Peck’s Management Cases course I enjoyed the challenge of working through a new business case weekly and developing a full presentation for each. The weekly assignments allowed me to practice communicating via slides and work on my ability to meet tough deadlines. The opportunity to repeatedly present to classmates not only strengthened my confidence in presenting to an audience, but also allowed me to become more comfortable being in the spotlight and receiving tough feedback. Most valuable of all, I had the chance to see how my classmates approached the same case, often in different and more effective ways, which led to many, “Why didn’t I think of that?!” moments.

During the second semester of my first year, I immersed myself in the SGE project. Working with a CEO trying to figure out how best to scale his solar products business was by far the most challenging and rewarding experience of my MBA. Our team had to take a real strategic issue and determine how to break it into manageable steps to be accomplished over the course of the semester. The team thoroughly reviewed the project scope and then worked through the logistics of communicating with our client and creating and presenting deliverables. On top of everything, at the end of the semester we faced the challenging task of delivering bad news as our research concluded that client desired outcomes were unachievable.

Combining these two experiences provided immediate return on investment during my summer internship by heightening my confidence to handle new problems and projects. It allowed me to approach my summer assignments with structure gained from the immersion project. I was amazed to learn that my summer employer used an identical process utilized in Professor Peck’s course for final round interviews.

I continue to rely upon skills acquired during the immersion process in my current job as a management consultant, including processing new information quickly, dealing with the unknown, building client relationships, communicating clearly and effectively, and creating small wins. The experience was invaluable.