Rowan’s MBA fellowship shapes “change agents” with hands-on field experience

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Fellows meet with Dean Jennifer Maden and Lead Mentor Greg Payton in the Rowan Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. - Photo via Christina Veach

Rowan Masters in Business Administration (MBA) and Masters in Finance (MS) students have been presented with a unique opportunity to make a social impact and strengthen their hands-on field experience through the Fellowship program at Rowan University’s William G. Rohrer College of Business (RCB).

Fellows work on a variety of projects, some here in Glassboro and others globally, helping businesses and organizations overseas. Students not only get field experience, but they also are able to get scholarships, ranging from $500 to $30,000 depending on the project. The money comes from a grant provided by the William G. Rohrer Charitable Foundation

“It’s a really nice win-win situation where the students can get scholarship funding, the partner organizations that we’re working with get some really smart students helping them solve real-world problems. Students get to explore and build skills and experience in areas where it’s hard sometimes to make that first move into that kind of different undefined role and job,” said Jennifer Maden, assistant dean for graduate students

Shaping the next generation of “change agents” is the core of the program. Each project is intended to teach fellows about business while also making an impact and a positive social change. Whether this is through consulting in Finland or studying the effects of climate change on racetracks, each project is intended to improve a given industry. 

“We want to make sure that we’re educating responsible future leaders, and we want them to make sure that for the fellows, a big focus is that positive societal impact,” said Maden.

Lecturer Greg Payton is the lead mentor for the fellowship and works directly with students, giving them one-on-one support for their projects and ideas. He meets with them monthly where he can assist them with any challenges they might face and hear about the projects they’re working on.

“I tell my students, and all my mentees that I don’t teach, I inspire. So my objective is to inspire them to be great by making a difference,” said Payton. 

Payton does this by actively paying attention to what motivates and drives his students, he makes sure to listen to their passions and more importantly discovers their “why.”

“People don’t care what you do, they care why you do it. So I need to make sure they understand that,” said Payton.

There are currently six fellowship students, all working on individual projects of their choosing. Some even take place right on Rowan University’s campus. 

Aarushi Gupta is an MBA fellow who is part of the BA in Environmental and Sustainability Studies and MBA 4+1 program, which allows her to complete her undergraduate and master’s studies in five years. Her current fellowship project is with the Rowan Center for Responsible Leadership, where she comes up with ways to market sustainable resources and projects. It’s centered around figuring out ways to successfully inform Rowan students on how they can integrate sustainability into student life. 

“I think the advantage of the program, the 4+1, is that if you’re interested in sustainability, you don’t always want to be pushing it from the government aspect. You need to understand what businesses actually do and what they need to survive, and how we can like, synergize with that,” said Gupta.

Gupta will also be organizing a “Prof Swap” event that will take place on Dec. 6 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., where students and faculty have the opportunity to find new homes for clothing, books, and other items they no longer use. There will be supplies to upcycle old clothing as well. 

“This fellowship is the exact thing I want to do in my career. I want to work in sustainability in higher education… and I think that’s like the biggest reward for me. I’m getting hands-on experience doing something that I want to do as a profession,” said Gupta.

Hands-on experience is a large part of why Robert “Bill” Rodgers applied for the fellowship program this semester. An MBA student with a concentration in Management Information Systems (MIS), he’s doing his fellowship work in helping disadvantaged K-12 students in Gloucester County. 

“I want to make sure they’re given the same opportunities that everybody else is given…because they’re a disadvantaged community or because they don’t have the same tax base as some of the other communities in New Jersey…they should have the same opportunities to go to the same schools,” said Rodgers.

Zachary Rouhas is another MBA fellow whose work revolves around sustainability, and his research extended to the race car industry. This semester, he’s conducted research with McLaren, a formula 1 racing team, about racetracks, specifically which ones will stand the test of time with climate change and severe weather. 

“They asked us to kind of look at all of these individual racetracks, do a little bit of environmental impact analysis and say, ‘Is there a greater risk of racing at these racecourses now, because of climate change?’ And there was five years ago. Will the impact be so great that in maybe like five or 10 years, this racetrack won’t exist?” said Rouhas.

The work with McLaren prepared him for further study as Rouhas is now working on a new research project. He’ll be working to develop a case study on Volvo and their sustainability efforts with their cars

“We have to do the research to determine, what was the motivation behind why they’re being sustainable? Why does it work in places like Sweden and Denmark but doesn’t work here?” said Rouhas.

While some fellows are focusing on environmental efforts, others are focusing on business and entrepreneurship here at Rowan. Larah-Ann Petersen works with the Rowan Innovation Venture Fund and the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship to assist local entrepreneurs as they go about their journey. She gives student entrepreneurs advice with their pitches, does research about pitch competitions, and researches ways to help businesses and entrepreneurs grow.

She’s found that the fellowship has not only given her experience working in her desired field but it’s shown her the value of having discipline with the work that you do. 

“If you’re disciplined, you can achieve anything, you can get anything done but you need to have that discipline,” said Petersen. 

Discipline and transferable skills are both important to have when pursuing a career in business. Siena Rampulla is an example of an MBA student who’s learning from her experiences with her fellowship, and using them to transfer them to her own business.

Rampulla is a 2023 graduate student whose fellowship works with Anicare, a reindeer tagging and tracking business in Finland. She acts as a consultant and offers advice on market strategy and business culture in America.

Rampulla is the founder and CEO of PULLATracker, a women’s safety app that helps women on college campuses. She’s been able to use her skills with the fellowship to not only help the company that she works with, but in her own business venture.

“I feel like I’m getting real-world experience helping a company move over, and now that I am kind of seeing the process helping them move over, I can start thinking about my process of how I’m going to go to Italy or Europe [with her own business],” said Rampulla. 

Not only does she get to learn business skills through this program, but she’s been able to get a sense of how other cultures operate differently than in the United States. Last year, she studied abroad in Italy, and through this fellowship, she gets to continue gaining knowledge and learning about different cultures.

“I still love having a tie to Europe and I love learning about how other people do things. I feel like that’s the way you learn. I’m always a hands-on type of person so I’m just very happy that I was able to, you know, do this,” said Rampulla.

There are several other fellowships available, and as the program expands, more students are welcome to apply for the future. MBA students who are seeking to make a change in society from any undergraduate background are welcome to apply. For more information about the programs and application process, visit the RCB Fellowship website.

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