Global Recognition for a Maryland Smith ‘PANDEMIC PIVOT’

MBA Roundtable Cites the Impact Consulting Fellowship Program as an Innovative Response to COVID

When COVID-19 abruptly forced college campuses into various pivots, the Center for Social Value Creation (CSVC) at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business excelled. The center organized 23 teams, each consisting of two master’s students and three undergraduates, and placed them with Maryland alumni to provide more than 12,000 pro bono consulting hours over two months during the pandemic.

This “Impact Consulting Fellowship Program” reached nonprofit organizations, B Corporations, and for-profit impact-driven organizations. It also drew the attention of the MBA Roundtable, which cited the initiative, along with just two other business school projects, as a 2020 Fast Track Curriculum Innovation Award winner.

The MBA Roundtable – a global association of business schools focused on graduate management education – introduced this award in response to COVID to cite “ingenuity and resourcefulness in continuing to deliver world-class graduate business education curriculum to their students in this time of incredible turmoil and change.” Its criteria is based on creativity, the uniqueness of the solutions, implementation speed, resourcefulness in using existing tools or working within budgetary constraints, the innovation’s impact on students, the level of engagement across the university, and the repeatability and scalability of the initiatives.

The Maryland Smith initiative, according to the MBA Roundtable, “gave students a tremendous opportunity to challenge themselves and strengthen their consultant skills during unprecedented times.” Affirming this, in part, was a student-produced handbook – “created because they wanted this opportunity to be scaled for impact-driven students at other institutions.”

The Impact Consulting Fellowship is ongoing, with 64 students providing over 9,000 hours of pro bono consulting for nine impact-driven organizations this fall and ramping up for a spring 2021 iteration of the program, as well. CSVC Director Nima Farshchi (MBA ’20) says the benefits to both students and clients are far-reaching. “The remote environment is allowing us to do consulting for a greater diversity of clients. We are supporting our alumni founders in different states – something we wouldn’t be doing in a non-virtual environment.” The work, he adds, dovetails with the Business Roundtable’s recent advocacy for corporations to serve stakeholders and all Americans. “Organizations need highly qualified leaders to shape their organizations,” he says. “Our students are these future leaders that will help value-driven organizations make sustainable business choices.”