Creating real-world learning opportunities for students

by Paul McKean '11,

Donor support helps students put their management education to the test with real stakes and real organizations.

  • Zach Dyne
    Zach Dyne '19, MBA'20 (right) gained real world experience in his Willamette MBA program.

Because of donor support, the Atkinson Graduate School of Management can be the gold standard for unique experiential learning opportunities. This support of innovative programs like Practical Applications for Careers and Enterprises (PACE) and Philanthropic Investment for Community Impact help Atkinson students take their management skills out of the classroom to serve real community organizations.

PACE students spend six months consulting with not-for-profit organizations, where they gain valuable leadership, organizational and communication skills. Willamette MBA alumni often cite PACE as one of the most transformative aspects of their MBA experience.

These programs raise the stakes for Atkinson students by putting them on a team dedicated to solving an organization’s biggest challenges in marketing, accounting, human resources and more.

A change in mindset

For Zach Dyne ‘19, MBA’20, the PACE program required a profound change in mindset. As a student in the Willamette BA-MBA dual-degree program, Dyne came to Atkinson equipped with a strong liberal arts foundation. But what he didn’t have was experience managing a complex team project where his decisions have real-life consequences.

“If I’m reading a balance sheet for a class, and make a mistake, I learn,” Dyne says. “But if the organization makes a decision based on a calculation I did wrong, then I can steer them in the wrong direction.”

To serve his client, Dyne was challenged to think on his feet.

We had to develop whatever skills were called for by the project — no matter whether you call yourself a marketer or an accountant.

Management tools for any sector

Dyne says that experiences like PACE will give him the valuable tools he needs to differentiate himself in his chosen field.

“My career goal is to work in data science and analytics,” Dyne says. “Many of the people in that space come from computer science or engineering. But the unique experience I get to bring is understanding how the work that we’re doing fits into the broader context of an organization.”

Supporting Atkinson helps create the next generation of public and private sector leaders whose impacts will be felt throughout the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

“You’re not just providing opportunities for students to better themselves,” Dyne says. “People at Atkinson really want to take that support and do something better for the world."

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