My MBA Capstone

A few days ago, I got the news that I’d officially aced both my MBA capstone course and its final. This is pretty big news, the culmination of three years of work in a field I never really thought I might find myself pursuing.

Now, I can’t imagine not having pursued it.

I remember the day I went to the open house at Regis University, in Denver. I knew I wanted to continue pursuing graduate education, but I had an entirely different idea about how; I’d recently had a huge idea for an enormous non-fiction project (so big I’m still working on it, in fact), and I thought I might pursue that. I though perhaps it would be a good idea to have university support for what otherwise might have been construed as something more akin to a thought experiment.

(At this point, of course, it’s still mainly a thought experiment.)

But I got to the open house and something changed. To pursue theology, or even anything in the liberal arts, I had to design my own curriculum. Which wouldn’t have been a problem; I’d already designed and implemented a syllabus at USC.

Rather, I didn’t feel at comfortable at the liberal arts information session. I can’t really explain it better, but I sat down in the classroom, and I looked around, and I realized I felt more comfortable in the bigger room with the business students in their suits and professional attire. Their demeanor had been different, as had their language.

Business, like science, is a realm mainly of objectivity, I think. I like science at least partly because it’s recordable, measurable, and it focuses mainly on tangibility. Same with business, focusing on things like revenue and earnings before etc., and market data and demographics.

Problem was, as I mentioned, my degrees were in literature and science. I had no background in finance and accounting and those sorts of things, so, to pursue an MBA, I had to fulfill some prerequisites, and start not just at the beginning but well before said beginning.

The road to my MBA was not an easy one. Since August of 2008, when I first started, I moved three times, pulled up digs to find new locales in new surroundings, pursuing entirely new careers, starting over . . .

I am, however, almost finished. Six more weeks. This one last class, in product management.

The capstone was meant to be a culmination. Always taken in the student’s final semester, and demonstrative of all the skills one had learned over the course of the MBA. Mine centered around a company called Mercury International, which had been founded by a brother and sister in Colorado on a new shoe–the TrailStep–designed for hiking. It had branched out into other products, but most had been niche.

Our mission, which we had no choice but to accept, was to fulfill the goals of Mercury’s shareholders, who wanted to increase their market share. So we had a simulation, which was like a videogame back before the days of consoles; some rudimentary graphics, but overall not much to look at. Just some buttons to push and data to provide, memos to write, strategies to select.

It was an interesting exercise. It challenged me to think outside my comfort zone, which is in marketing. This wasn’t a capstone in marketing, though that’s what my concentration was; it was, rather, a capstone in business, and the capstone had to demonstrate my knowledge of business as a whole. I couldn’t just be a marketer.

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When it came time to outline the requirements of the capstone, our professor was rather clear on its form but also mentioned a preference for the clever, and creative. Now, mind you, this is an MBA from one of the top-tier universities in the West. Regis has a pretty stellar (and long) reputation as a great Jesuit institution, and it brings that reputation to its MBA. The standards are high, and all work had to be referenced and cited using APA format, and papers had to be according to academic guidelines.

Which made me pause when my professor mentioned clever and creative.

Clever and creative are adjectives to which I aspire. And so, when offered the opportunity to be either, well, I tend to really aim at both. Tell me I can be creative, and mention that a favorite project was an exit interview, and I’ll start thinking about mock podcasts and video interviews, and how I can go above-and-beyond all expectations for the assignment.

However, I knew it’s an academic paper, for an MBA. The requirements the professor posted mentioned citations and APA style. I couldn’t figure out how to do citations in, say, a podcast, so I wrote for clarification.

I very much enjoy that my professor responded by noting he knew I was going to ask such questions. I quite enjoy being that student. And that guy. He clarified that it could be creative within academic standards.

So I had an even greater challenge. Not only clever and creative, but still academic.

I thought I’d share what I came up with:

Capstone Final

I was rather pleased with both the result and the grade.


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