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Innovation in Practice Course

Making a Difference: MBA Innovation in Practice Course

The Mission

Every first-year, full-time student in the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Masters of Business Administration program is required to complete a service-learning course in partnership with a local, non-profit organization. Students apply their problem-solving skills in tandem with these organizations to improve deployment of scarce resources. Teams of four to five MBA students are assigned to each nonprofit client, along with a faculty member. Each team presents a detailed final report at the end of the seven-week engagement. This program is an outgrowth of work that UT MBA students have been doing with local nonprofits since 2004, and involves two full-time faculty, five to eight part-time faculty, and approximately 70 students every year.

The Partners

Community partners since 2004 have included organizations such as the Appalachian Arts, Ft. Loudoun Lake Association, Habitat for Humanity, Junior Achievement, Knox Heritage, Blount County Aging, Ijams Nature Center, Redeeming Hope, City of Knoxville, City of Oak Ridge, Restoration House, Knoxville Botanical Garden, Museum of Appalachia, TNAchieves, Salvation Army, and Knox Area Rescue Mission. University of Tennessee, Knoxville partners include the Haslam College of Business and the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

Impact on UT

MBA students acquire valuable out-of-the-classroom learning experience in this required course. Students apply a problem-solving framework to real-world situations faced by nonprofit organizations. Students also learn from weekly dialogues with executive directors, boards of directors, and guest entrepreneurs who share insights from their own work and journeys to create organization value. UT’s Full-Time MBA Entrepreneurship Concentration is ranked Top-20 among public institutions.

Impact on Community

From the course’s inception in 2004 through May 2015, 111 non-profit organizations received the benefit of 41,574 hours of time, provided by 534 students and assisted by numerous faculty to provide solutions to organization-specific problems. UT’s Haslam College of Business is 100 years strong in making an impact in the global business world, celebrating a legacy of ethics, enlightenment and entrepreneurship that has shaped the world of business and continues to define what it means to deliver value and innovation in business education.

Related Story: MBA Social Cause Capstone: Learning by Doing >>


University of Tennessee’s MBA program office, 865-974-5033, or email


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