Instructors Richard Johnson and Henry Musoma see a need for students in the Freshman Business Initiative (FBI) to gain hands-on research experience as early as possible. In the program that helps Mays Business School freshmen transition into college, small groups of freshmen meet with student peer advisors and faculty mentors.
For the second year in a row, students in FBI were given the opportunity to conduct a research project on a topic of their choice.
“Freshmen come in wanting to know the answers to many questions,” said Johnson. “The FBI research project helps satisfy their interests and helps them become better researchers so they will be able to find their own answers.”
Johnson described the semester-long research project he and Musoma co-created as a developmental opportunity for students to apply what they have learned in the classroom to specific team situations. Students are especially encouraged to focus on applying the seven Mays core competencies: communication, problem solving, creating new opportunities, leading, managing, working with others and acting ethically.
Students in Johnson’s class chose topics emphasizing a need in the Aggie community, while those in Musoma’s class took a more global perspective. Some of the research topics were:
- Whether Texas A&M meal plans should be extended to off-campus restaurants
- Whether there is demand for an on-campus bike repair service
- The process of acquiring trademarks in the U.S. and China
- The advantages and disadvantages of outsourcing to India
Students were expected to prepare a five-minute pitch, a poster and a comprehensive business plan, which brought together individual project components, such as financial plans and marketing plans, designed to integrate key concepts learned at Mays.
Johnson said in order to keep the team experiences as authentic as possible, he and Musoma designed the project to have fairly open-ended requirements without step-by-step instructions. “Once teams submit their proposals, we provide guidance and help predict obstacles, but we let the students drive the direction of the project,” said Johnson.
The team projects culminated in FBI Research Week, at which more than 800 FBI students presented their research over two days to faculty, staff and students in the Wehner lobby.
One team, Ag’Merican Traditions, focused its research on mapping the process of acquiring intellectual property trademarks in the United States and China. The group created a logo and is collecting pre-orders for a T-shirt they designed.
Two of the six team members, Pierce Hellman and Carl Ivey, described their research experience as informative and eye-opening. “I learned what it really takes to start a business,” said Hellman. “Our research taught me what an extensive process it is for small businesses to acquire trademarks.”
Another group conducted primary research through surveys and interviews and secondary company research to analyze the pros and cons of outsourcing to India. Team members Megan Crafton and Rachel Gleaves explained that although the project was challenging at times, they were able to utilize the skills of each team member to accomplish the team’s goals.
“It was difficult to find substantial data since we were researching a broad topic,” said Crafton. “However, we used the different strengths of our team members to be successful and ended up learning a great deal about outsourcing.”
One of the most beneficial aspects of the program is the opportunity for students to reach out to faculty and staff at Mays or local businesspeople as part of the research process. “This project allows students to start making connections and begin establishing a network early on,” said Johnson.
He said many exciting and feasible ideas have stemmed from the FBI research program, and that he hopes students apply what they have learned to future teams. “I encourage students to pursue their ideas and develop their skills even beyond the conclusion of this project,” said Johnson.
About Mays Business School
Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,000 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its undergraduate and MBA programs, and for faculty research. The mission of Mays Business School is creating knowledge and developing ethical leaders for a global society.