MBA Students Serve as Consultants for Berkshire Hathaway/Marmon Companies
Project Provides Real-World Experience for Students
By Mike Emery
This semester, Dr. Candace TenBrink’s virtual classroom was transformed into a virtual boardroom for Master of Business Administration students at the University of Houston-Downtown’s Marilyn Davies College of Business.
Students in TenBrink’s Capstone Strategy class (MBA 6216) are receiving the unique opportunity to serve as consultants for Marmon Holdings, Inc., a Berkshire Hathaway company. These students worked with leaders of two Marmon companies, Enersul/Marmon Water and Marmon Foodservice Technologies, to develop market entry strategies for two separate products.
According to TenBrink, Assistant Professor of Management, the semester-long project has been invaluable to their development as business professionals. It also enhanced their MBA experience at the Marilyn Davies College of Business.
“This has been an incredible experience for our students,” she said. “They have the opportunity to apply what they’re learning in our MBA program to real-world situations.”
TenBrink’s students were split into two groups. One worked with Marmon Foodservice Technologies on strategies for introducing a new toasting technology to the consumer marketplace. The other team collaborated with Enersul to develop plans for its GX series of sulphur granulators to expand onto new global market opportunities. Both student groups conducted detailed industry analyses and researched other factors critical to market entry for both products.
This project complements the MBA Program’s popular team teaching model that pairs faculty members with Corporate Fellows (or industry leaders from a range of business sectors). While UHD professors contribute academic expertise to MBA curriculum, Corporate Fellows impart professional wisdom and experience.
Students are grateful for both the opportunity to learn from Corporate Fellows and for projects such as the one offered in TenBrink’s Capstone Strategy course. Sanjay Singam is among TenBrink’s students, who appreciate the real-world opportunities, said that projects such as this are essential in preparing students for their careers.
“While UHD has brought a real-world aspect to its MBA Program via the inclusion of Corporate Fellows, doing work for a real company that has a real need is invaluable to students,” he emphasized. “Knowing there is a company that requires support from an outside consultant makes the work more interesting and real, which provides students experience they can fall back on when they enter the workforce. It also showcases the University’s capabilities to prospective employers of UHD students and increases the profile of the University.”
Singam’s classmate Eric Caldwell concurs and said projects such as this are essential to building critical-thinking skills. It also reinforces the importance of experiential learning within the MBA Program.
“Projects like this are very important,” Caldwell said. “Working with real people with real problems helps connect lessons learned in the classroom to the real world.”
The project and TenBrink’s Capstone Strategy course were conducted with financial support from Marmon Holdings. These funds reflect the company’s commitment to shaping tomorrow’s business leaders through applied research projects such as the one undertaken by TenBrink’s students this semester.
Marmon Holdings, Inc., part of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., is a global industrial organization comprising 11 diverse business sectors and more than 100 autonomous manufacturing and service businesses. Marmon businesses operate more than 400 manufacturing, distribution, and service facilities, and employ more than 20,000 people worldwide. Revenues exceeded $8 billion in 2019.
“I am pleased that Marmon sought the insights and expertise of our students for two of its companies,” TenBrink said. “It has been a learning experience on both sides … for the students and the companies. Ultimately, I'm hopeful that this project and others in the future will continue to hone the skills of our students while supporting the business operations of the firms. It’s definitely a win-win scenario and one I look forward to repeating in future semesters.”
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.
U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.