Frequently Asked Questions About IBE

Q:What is the Integrated Business Experience?

The experience is a combination of three required courses, FINA 362, MGMT 330, and MRKT 310, with a practicum (applied course) which is a 499 course in your major. The experience links all these courses while still ensuring that you receive all the relevant content from each.

The practicum is designed to be a student-run company managed by the full class. You, and other members of the class, will start with ideas and end up with a completed business plan that includes aspects of Management, Marketing, and Finance. That business plan will be presented to a bank to acquire funding. With that funding, the company will execute the business plan.

The courses are linked to the practicum as they are redesigned to deliver content just-in-time to you and the company. That can lead to a non-traditional ordering of topics since the objective is to help you succeed. In the past year, student companies have also done a range of non-traditional activities. These include, but are not limited to, team-building exercises, being provided personality inventories with information on how their personality tends to interact in organizations, and having lunch with external business people,

The Integrated Business Experience has been recognized statewide for its innovative approach to learning. Last year the Minnesota State University and Colleges System (31 schools including 7 state universities in Minnesota) recognized the program by granting it the Excellence in Curricula Programming Award. This year the immediate past president, Chad Hess, accepted a President’s Leadership Award on behalf of the Integrated Business Experience at the Minnesota Campus Compact (made up of 42 universities and colleges in Minnesota).

The experience is taught two days a week, running from 9:30-3:15.

Q:Doesn’t the day get long?

The schedule is the same as four classes in a day. The fourth, the practicum, is also not a formal-sit-down-and-take-notes class and so it far more flexible on how it is run and the amount of sitting is closer to three classes in a day.

In addition to breaks between classes, there is also a lunch break. The lunch break is currently 45 minutes, but the faculty have scheduled (and will continue to schedule) around the preferences of the class.

Because it is very manageable, in past semesters people would take one or even two more classes during the IBE program.

Q:How can I use the 499 practicum class?

The chairs of Accounting, Finance, Marketing, and Management will substitute the 499 for a major prerequisite. That means that you can use all four classes in the experience toward completing your degree in any of these four areas. If you are an International Business single-major you should talk to the chair of the Department of Marketing before you decide to apply.

Q:What is the point of taking the Integrated Business Experience?

The experience is designed to help you practice and expand your ability as an Innovator.
Large corporations are telling us (us=All AACSB Business Schools in the U.S.) that they want innovative graduates. They further state that business schools with traditional curricula are not preparing students to be innovative. Being innovative involves a way of thinking and acting* that is in high demand in business, The Integrated Business Experience is designed to help you develop an innovative mindset and skillsets useful in business.

It is also an incredible resume builder. Consider the following interview question:
How well do you work in a team? Can you provide an example?
Which of the following two is a better answer?
-I work well in a team. In a class last year I worked with five people on homework assignments
throughout the semester. One assignment was very difficult…
-I work well in a team. During the lead-up to our business plan presentations, I worked with the rest of the operations team to prepare an inventory tracking process and coordinated with the finance team to develop a cash management process. We found some challenges in that process that we overcame by…
Of course a second resume benefit is few people have gone through such an activity in the multistate area so the experience is rather unique (At least for now. When we present the program, other schools are very active about asking how it is done since their employers are telling them the same things as ours are about how innovative graduates are critical…).

For those of you who wish to be Entrepreneur, the experience will also provide you hands-on practice with some issues that business owners manage every day. The Integrated Business Experience is a first step to feed into other classes that help you prepare as an entrepreneur.
Interestingly enough, one of the skills associated with being an innovator is to be entrepreneurial.

Q:Who gets accepted into the program?

The program is available to all College of Business students who meet three criteria. The first criterion is that you must be accepted into the College of Business, at least temporarily. If you are not at least temporarily admitted to the College of Business, you can still apply. If you meet the other criteria, we will save a seat for you. Once you are accepted into the college, contact us and we will process the application to force you into the programs specially designated sections.

The second is that you need to have completed Accounting 200. That course is a prerequisite for the Integrated Business Experience. We will admit people who are currently taking ACCT 200, but actually starting the program does require the completion of that accounting course.

The third is that you need to take all of the courses together in specially designated sections. The last is because the program uses a cohort model. If someone has taken a course used in the Integrated Business Experience, they can still undertake the program but they would need to retake that course.

The program is also available to majors in and Construction Management. Because of different programmatic structures, acceptance into the college is not required.

Q:What is the cohort model and why is it important?

The cohort model is designed to have all students take the program together. Everyone in the Integrated Business Experience, for instance, will take the same Marketing 310 section. There are two reasons why the cohort model is used.

The first is practical. The program is designed to support you in applying what you have learned, so content is often taught in a very different order than in traditional courses. Taking a different section would not properly prepare you for what you will need to do when you need to do it.

The other is tied up with skills like teamwork, communication, leadership and the like. As the class is a cohort together, there is a great deal more interaction among classmates. This leads to more opportunities for skill development, working through frictions, and problem-solving.

The cohort model also tends to limit free-riding behavior as the cost is very high. Consider, perhaps you have been in a group where one person will not put in the work. The group’s options for dealing with the issue were limited. Now that person will be in not just one class but four different classes and they will need to operate with the full class. Combined with a robust feedback system, there is a huge disincentive to free-ride off other group members. The program is designed to help you succeed, but someone who is free-riding will discover they found a way to fail.

Q:What if the company cannot pay back the loan?

The program has been designed to ensure that the loan will be paid back. Assignments are designed to ensure that you make progress to success. There is a company advisor to help you along the way. That advisor is a student from a prior semester whose company was successful. There are check point presentations to faculty along the way to ensure that you, and the rest of the company, are on the right track. You will present your business plan to a bank to obtain a loan. The faculty will not approve going forward with the presentation until they are certain you can carry out the business plan. The bank will not approve the loan unless they expect your company to repay. Even were an unexpected crisis to occur, you are not alone in such situation. You are working with all the other students in the class. Also standing by, if you need and ask for their help, are three faculty, a company advisor, and the College of Business. Everything is there to help you succeed. The only way to not succeed is to not try.

Q:What is the past experience on successful loan repayment

Every class at MNSU has paid back the loan and made between $1500-$2500 beyond that. A very similar program has been running since 1995 at the University of Oklahoma and more recently at Central Missouri University. Together they total well over 100 unique student companies and nearly as many different business plans. The student businesses have, each and every time, paid back the loans. You can actually find the list of ideas and money made for the University of Oklahoma’s Integrated Business Core at their College of Business web page. The least amount that a group made was enough to pay back a loan plus more than $800 more.

Q:I heard something about charity. What does that entail?

Part of the program does involved charity work. There is a parallel set of officers for the charity side and they plan and execute charity and fundraising events. Surplus earned funds are donated to charity, and people donate their time to charitable activities as well. Past charities have included Kids Against Hunger and Junior Achievement (Business).

The charity provides more opportunities for people to take leadership and organizational roles as well as a way to do good while doing business.

Q:I had heard about the program, but are the products too “easy”

The basis of the experience is the process not the product. What is essential is working through the process, problem solving, coordinating, etc. The actual product used is far less important.

Having said that, the product is based on what your company chooses. After learning from the first few semesters, faculty teaching the program strongly believe that you and other students can easily succeed with far more complex projects.

Q:It seems like a lot of work.

The program is a full 12-credit schedule so is will be substantial work, much like you would expect in any 12-credit schedule. As far as the practicum, remember that you are not in this alone. There is a full class working toward the same goal. A great deal can be done by one or two dozen people over 15 weeks with no one taking an undue burden. When people think about the work involved, it is easy to forget that the practicum is a class. Your classwork is not, however, a weekly set of solutions turned in on paper plus heavy studying for three exams. Rather, you help prepare a business plan and then take a role in executing that plan. The process is hands-on and flexible to allow different people to contribute in different ways and at different times. Do note, however, that you get out what you put in. Taking a leadership role makes your job harder, but increases your learning by a great deal. Putting in more effort than expected by the class does much the same.


*The employers are asking for critical thinking, problem solving, asking good questions, leading by influence, adaptability, agility, initiative, entrepreneurism, effective oral and written communications, critical analysis, curiosity, ability to imagine business solutions, and self-motivation. IBE provides opportunities for all of these. The list was generated by research of major international corporations by Tony Wagner, author of Creating Innovators. Mr. Wagner works for Harvard Business School as their Innovation Education Fellow.