It’s official, the new +Impact Studio is up and running at the Ross School of Business, and MBAs and other graduate students from across the University of Michigan are already at work figuring out how to translate faculty insights into tangible business solutions to the world’s challenges.
The +Impact Studio, which is part of the Business+Impact initiative at Ross, encompasses an interdisciplinary action-based learning course; a collaboration space; and a campus hub for programming and events. In addition to translating academic research into real-world impact, the studio also seeks to train students on how to be architects to create new kinds of enterprises.
By design, the interdisciplinary +Impact Studio course brings together the diverse talent and expertise of U-M’s top-ranked graduate schools to take on society’s greatest challenges. This year, the students in the class are divided into two different groups: one focused on using the latest fintech research by Michigan Ross finance professor Bob Dittmar to improve financial inclusion, and the other on scaling a technology developed by Ross marketing professor Eric Schwartz on how to identify lead in Flint water pipes so that it can have a greater impact in Flint and beyond.
“In this course, it is incredibly rewarding to bring together graduate students from five different schools on campus to learn design methodologies and immediately apply them to pressing challenges in society,” said Jeffrey Sanchez-Burks, faculty director of the +Impact Studio and instructor of the course. “The +Impact Studio course provides rare and valuable skills and a set of experiences employers across sectors are asking for.”
With long-term interests in making an impact in healthcare, Gautam Kandlikar, MBA '20, enrolled in the +Impact Studio course because he said there hasn’t been a good way to define and address larger healthcare problems beyond simply providing care and how to go about tackling them.
“What I like about this course is that professor Sanchez-Burks is taking really big and difficult-to-solve societal problems like poverty, and forcing us to think about them in different ways so that we can develop solutions by incorporating tools from business, design thinking, and new ideas we are being introduced to,” said Kandlikar. “I’m excited to explore those methods in the class so that I can apply them to healthcare and in my future career.”
To celebrate the grand opening of the space, an open house was recently held at the +Impact Studio. At the event, Michigan Ross students, faculty, staff, alumni, and members of the business community were able to get a firsthand look at how the space was designed to facilitate collaboration and idea generation.
“The physical space itself was designed around 'users' (students), based on observation of how they work together as teams,” said Jerry Davis, associate dean of Business+Impact at Michigan Ross. “Each part of the +Impact Studio provides a functional space for different ways of working and creating, from small group discussion work to quiet contemplation to interviewing to big presentations of work in progress. The space and the work and the course are all perfectly aligned."
Kandlikar agreed the space was fulfilling on its promise, providing a great space to step back and think about problems, a place to have insightful conservations, and a source of creative inspiration with its bright pops of color.
“It’s nice to be able to come into this sacred atmosphere where I’m only thinking about the problems in the class and having access to resources that I need,” he said. “Since my like-minded classmates and I are looking to make social impact a big part of our careers, this course and this space provide us with the perfect platform to explore achieving something really meaningful in a safe environment.”
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