PACE (Practical Application for Careers and Enterprises)

Willamette MBA

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Project Updates!

For the last month of class, we’ve been focusing on our year-long projects, which will conclude at the end of April. We have been busy finalizing recommendations, practicing presenting, and deciding how to tell a story (if you missed it, see my previous post here).

Each project is completely unique in the recommendations and deliverables. For example, my client is a not-for-profit in the Portland area. My team and I were initially tasked with figuring out why there has been an 11% decline in volunteers since 2011. Volunteers are crucial to almost all not-for-profit organizations, including our client. After preliminary research, we examined the on-boarding process of the volunteers—how anyone interested in volunteering can start—and realized the process could take over three months! From this realization, we narrowed in on reorganizing their on-boarding process and eliminating operational inefficiencies. What started as a potentially HR or marketing project ended up being almost entirely operations focused.

Though this was my group’s project, other groups worked on financial forecasting tools, marketing plans, change management and process improvement plans, research and development of new ventures, and franchising businesses.

Below are a couple of takeaways that I learned through the PACE project this year:

1)   Be Flexible. Clients often hire you to narrow in on the problem, not just give a recommendation. While sometimes they only require your expertise in a particular field, often they require help outside of the scope of the original proposal. Being able to adjust quickly and find additional resources is one of the most valuable parts of receiving a diversified degree like an MBA.

2)   Develop Trust. Just like any relationship in our lives, trust between teammates made a huge difference in the ease of groups working together. The sooner groups developed trust, the sooner they were able to allocate tasks. The psychological benefit, for example, of not worrying about the next deliverable because they knew their teammate would turn in great work was monumental.

3)   Utilize Your Strengths and Recognize Your Weaknesses. One of the most beneficial parts of receiving my MBA is realizing my own strengths and weaknesses. At Atkinson, professors and students are willing to give candid feedback on topics such as your presentation style or writing technique. Through working with my team, I have learned to recognize others’ strengths and distribute responsibilities based on strengths. Additionally, an MBA program provides the perfect opportunity to work on our weaknesses! There is no better place to fail than in the classroom, where the impact of failing is low. I have frequently heard professors say “fail here, so you don’t fail out there.”

On April 19th, teams will turn in their final report and present to clients, the cohort, and professors the results of their projects. If you’re a prospective student, faculty or staff member, or current MBA student, please join us on Friday April 19th at 12:15PM in Kaneko Commons to hear about the great work that first-year students have completed this year!


Emily Anderson is a first-year MBA candidate at Willamette University. She is a 2017 graduate of Gonzaga University, where she received her B.A. in International Studies. Emily enjoys PACE because of the opportunity to learn valuable career information, improve her analytical and speaking skills, and build partnerships with not-for-profits in Oregon.




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  1. 1 Comment(s)

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