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'First Friday Think Tank' Provides EMBA Students Forum to Share Business Ideas

A new initiative in the Penn State Smeal College of Business Executive MBA Program provides students the opportunity to draw on their classmates’ talent and expertise in a student-led forum to develop entrepreneurial ideas and business strategies.
March 25, 2013

A new initiative in the Penn State Smeal College of Business Executive MBA Program provides students the opportunity to draw on their classmates’ talent and expertise in a student-led forum to develop entrepreneurial ideas and business strategies.

At the First Friday Think Tank forums, students present their ideas for new business concepts, product development, entrepreneurial ventures, and workplace innovations. Then, in a collaborative discussion, their classmates apply their unique skills and perspectives to analyze the opportunities and challenges and develop possible solutions.

“This is a fairly unique opportunity among EMBA programs,” said Gwen Cohen, associate director of the Smeal EMBA Program. “EMBA students come to the program with a vast range of expertise, and Think Tank forums provide students with an additional way to benefit from all that expertise and learn from each other.”

Ben Rice is an EMBA student who has participated in the Think Tanks since they began in January. At a recent forum, he presented an idea to expand his family’s apple business.

“I think the most significant value for me is the opportunity to apply classroom concepts in a live environment while still feeling like I’m in the safety of a learning context—and am allowed to make a mistake or two,” said Rice.

Students in the EMBA Program come from a wide variety of backgrounds and professional experiences, so both presenters and panelists benefit from the collaborative exchange of ideas.

“It’s easy to daydream about the power of an idea, but when you put it forward to a group of very smart people who have a lot of experience in business, they start teasing out the nuts and bolts of building that idea into something real,” Rice said. “It’s amazing how much I’ve learned from my classmates.”

About the Penn State Executive MBA Program
Launched in 2001, the Penn State Smeal Executive MBA Program is a 21-month program designed for working professionals with classes held on alternating weekends at the ACE Conference Center in suburban Philadelphia. The program features personalized executive coaching, intensive communication training, a weeklong international residency experience, and coursework focused on the unique challenges of the students’ firms. Learn more at www.smeal.psu.edu/execmba.

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