On a Saturday morning, during their 9 a.m. classes, students from the Professional MBA Classes of 2019 and 2020 were prepared to debrief a typical case assignment for their respective accounting course. The class of 2019 was in Mary Lea McAnally’s Financial Accounting course, and the class of 2020 was in Mike Kinney’s Managerial Accounting course. Both cohorts thought this would be a typical class discussion.

Moments into each separate class, the respective faculty announced that the student teams in both classes had a good start analyzing the case – but were incomplete in their analysis. McAnally told her Financial Accounting students, “To understand the complete picture of this company, the results they’ve generated, and the options in front of them, your team needs information from the managerial accounting team in Kinney’s class next door.” Kinney simultaneously announced to his Managerial Accounting teams that they needed to immediately partner with teams from financial accounting to complete a full analysis and generate valid recommendations.

The faculty said, “go,” and the teams from each class paired to complete a new “Combined Case” assignment in 90 minutes. After the 90 minutes, the combined teams presented their analysis and recommendations to a group of faculty who were assuming the role of the case company’s board of directors.

The teams were required to present their unified analysis and recommendations in a clear, concise, and appealing manner. Following the case presentations, McAnally, Kinney, and Business Communication Professor John Krajicek debriefed the teams.

Anthony Furino, a second-year Professional MBA student, was instrumental in inspiring the Combined Case. Furino had previously talked to the Professional MBA program administration about the cohorts creating in an activity to develop cooperation and relationship across the two distinct classes. Furino was surprised that the program took his idea, expanded it, and created a new, high-impact, innovative learning experience for the entire program.

Kinney and McAnally created the combined case assignment for the Professional MBA students to share. The cases were based on the same company, from the same period, and the same financial statements. Only slightly different information and analysis requirements separated the two cases.

Cohorts collaborate

The results were encouraging. After students spent time working their individual cohort’s version of the case, and then teamed with the other cohort for deeper analysis and more complete recommendations, students reported learning accounting concepts together, across teams and classes. The students also experienced quickly forming a new work team, establishing roles and processes, and practiced decision-making together. To Furino’s delight, the network between first-year and second-year students was strengthened, and new relationships were formed.

Professional MBA Director Michael Alexander’s thoughts on the combined case experience were positive. He lauded the preparedness, willingness, and thoroughness of the students. “Our students came prepared for the day, were thrown a big curve, responded, got to work, analyzed deeply, taught each other, make decisions, built, and delivered clear presentations,” he said. “They discovered more about themselves and discovered more about accounting and business, together. They transformed from “first-year teams” and “second-year teams” to new, functional, powerful teams. And they created relationships, having an impact on their time in the program and their future in the Aggie Network,” he concluded.
Furino called the experience “awesome,” and appreciated the fact that the “first-year students brought a fresh set of eyes and reminded us second-years of some important principles” when they were working on the combined case. Furino hopes the combined case will become a regular activity between first and second-year students, and hopes that it continues to foster the spirit of camaraderie he experienced.

Second-year student Chelsea Anderson liked the fact that her group quickly connected the two slightly different cases after completing them independently. She said the high-point of her experience was “being able to share advice in the moment with our partner first-year group. It reminded us all about the value of other points of view and the value of listening.”
First-year student Tyler Hill demonstrated his willingness to engage with his classmates and learn their perspectives. He commented that he “enjoyed the group discussion with the class of 2019 and enjoyed getting to know them and hearing their unique perspective on the case.”

“The joint analysis was much more insightful and powerful than either team could have produced separately. We had a classic example of synergies in this exercise.” McAnally said. “The students more than met my expectations with the content side of the exercise. And the teamwork dimension? I was blown away, I had no idea they would engage so completely. They learned, they worked hard, they had fun. What more could an educator ask for?”