Like many important conundrums, the question was deceptively simple: “Is a hotdog a sandwich?” But, for the students in Bryant University’s MBA Boot Camp, it was a dry run for a challenging and intensive course of study.
The seemingly silly prompt, posed in a workshop led by Alex Cole, Bryant’s executive director of graduate and professional education, tested the MBA candidates’ analytical, research, and presentation skills — and they threw themselves into the task with dedication, curiosity, and passion.
The students consulted industry expertise (the Oscar Meyer website), culinary tradition, and even hard-won first-hand experience (the writings of 16-time Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest Champion Joey Chestnutt). Some even tried to argue philosophy, asking at what point meat and bread truly came together to form a third, completely different item.
“I think you might have gone a little too far,” one student hesitantly suggested as the discussion became increasingly ethereal, causing the entire group to erupt into laughter.
“It’s a great question, because there’s no real answer,” reflected Miles Latimer ’23 ’24MBA. It’s all about how you approach it, he noted.
After all, if they could solve this problem, they could solve anything.
This year’s incoming MBA cohort is the largest in Bryant’s history. One hundred and two students, including 74 full-time and 28 part-time MBA students, are coming to the program from 21 states and five countries. Some are returning to campus after successful undergraduate careers at Bryant; others are new to the university.
The two-day MBA Boot Camp, attended by students from both Bryant’s One-Year and Two-Year MBA programs before classes officially begin, is designed to foster their first steps into a larger world, says Lecturer of Management and Boot Camp Coordinator Robert Massoud. “Acquiring a master’s degree makes you a leader, and, when you complete it, you’re going to be recognized as a leader,” Massoud advised the students.
Planned with consultation from educators throughout the MBA program, the boot camp is carefully tailored to prepare students to make the most of their education. “They don't need us to teach them how to be a student anymore,” said Massoud. “This is their time to take charge.”
For Erik Schmidt ’25MBA, that’s exactly why he was drawn to Bryant’s MBA program. “I felt that there was more for me out there,” he said. “I wanted to develop the skills to be able to do more and to feel more satisfaction in the things I'm capable of.”
Empowering the incoming students was a central theme throughout the Boot Camp. Faculty members walked them through specializations including Global Supply Chain Management, Business Analytics, FinTech, and International Business, as well as experiential opportunities like the program’s Global Immersion Experience, which recently traveled to Dubai.
The students also received a primer on MBA program tools that would help them take their education to the next level. Cathy Zheng, assistant professor of Finance, led a workshop on financial analysis. Laura Kohl, director of library services, advised them on high-level research tools as well as tips and strategies for investigation. Massoud himself headed a session on the art of presentation.
Trustee Professor of Management Mike Roberto, a best-selling case study author and a sought-after consultant, led a session on case analysis and problem-solving skills. “We’re going to teach you a whole bunch of concepts and frameworks,” he told the class. “But we’re also going to teach you how to think about a difficult business problem, marshal data, analyze evidence, and develop a coherent argument. That’s the most important thing to remember.”
The MBA candidates also met their cohort teams, study and work groups comprised of other students that provide a supportive network. Retired Professor of Management Jim Segovis returned to campus to lead a session on teambuilding that helped the students get to know each other as individuals and develop ground rules for their partnerships.
“You’re not creating a contract, you’re building a covenant: a set of promises you’re making to each other based on mutual understanding and respect,” Segovis reminded the students.
For many of the students, meeting and bonding with their cohort was one of the best parts of the camp. “It helps reassure you and makes you more excited when you know that it’s not just you — that you’re part of a team,” said Crawford Stricker ’25MBA.
Put to the test
On the second day of the camp, the new MBA students brought their newfound skills to bear. Each group was asked to choose a topic from a list ranging from the future of artificial intelligence to the COVID-19 pandemic’s disruption of the business landscape — or come up with one of their own. Then, over the course of a few short hours, the teams researched their subject, analyzed their findings, and developed presentations that would be critiqued by graduate faculty and staff.
Veronica Wallace ’23 ’24MBA and her team examined potential improvements to the global supply chain. Their delivery was polished, their information was sound, and their analysis was solid. In short, they took to heart the camp’s key lessons. “The final presentation might have been the most valuable part of the boot camp for me,” Wallace noted. “To have the chance to present and see what the MBA program is really like — and to figure out how to handle tough challenges together with my group — is incredibly beneficial.”
The boot camp, the students agreed, was a great beginning to what would be a challenging, but rewarding, MBA program. “I think this is going to be a lot more demanding, it's going to require lot of hard work, and it’s going to require all of us to work together to succeed,” said Patrick Galleher ’23 ’24MBA. “But I also think it’s going to be a lot of fun.”