Student Voices
Back to Listing

A New Class at Michigan Ross Challenges Me to Turn Strategy Into Real-World Action


By Kiva McGhee, BBA ’18

In a recent Corporate Strategy class, our assignment was to read a case and determine whether a company should backward vertically integrate. After several steps of analysis and some back-of-the envelope calculations, our class determined that it would not make sense for the company to integrate.

At the end of the process, one of my classmates raised his hand and asked our professor, “Do companies actually do this sort of analysis when making these decisions?”

The question got me thinking about how companies actually function. How are corporate decisions actually made? Who makes those decisions? Are executives performing SWOT analysis and using Porter’s Five Forces? How does corporate strategy actually work in reality?

Well, lucky for me, I just spent a semester getting real-life answers to all of those questions.

Thanks to the new Living Business Leadership Experience course at Michigan Ross, I get to be a part of how decisions are actually being made for a major luxury goods brand while we work on the launch of a new headphone line.

I got involved in LBLE just as all of those questions about how businesses make decisions were floating around in my head. When I joined the e-commerce team working with Shinola, I saw firsthand who was making decisions, and what sort of research and analysis was going into Shinola’s strategic choices.

Even beyond this, I had the chance to impact these decisions and play a role in actively solving real business problems. Our finance team was able to impact the price point of Shinola’s headphones; our marketing team made recommendations about the target market; and on the e-commerce team, we were able to track key site metrics and help improve the omnichannel purchase experience.

Beyond the countless lessons I have learned thus far, I am also providing unique value to Shinola, as a member of their team. 

I have taken many classes on corporate strategy at Ross, yet the reality is that decision making in real time is vastly different than reading about decisions that were made 10 years ago. In LBLE I am able to apply concepts I have learned in my Ross classes to a product launch for a real company, practicing real-time decision making.

I strongly encourage students to enroll in LBLE, as it is the perfect complement to the undergrad curriculum.

To learn from, and work with, top leadership from interesting companies as an undergrad is a rare opportunity. Furthermore, the chance to work on a diverse team with MBAs, some of whom bring up to 10 years of experience to the team, is a fantastic learning opportunity.

Not many 22-year-olds can say they’ve worked with upper-level management on strategic decision making at companies like Shinola and Ford, so this action-based learning class is truly a unique experience.

As I move into my second semester of LBLE, I am so excited to continue this amazing learning opportunity. This semester, I will serve as the team lead, employing and executing leadership strategies, managing a relationship between Shinola employees and my team, and overseeing my team’s performance.

After graduation, I will begin my first full-time job at Google, and I know that I can bring all of these skills from LBLE to my new job. I am extremely grateful to have had such an exceptional learning experience during my time at Ross. I am looking forward to continuing the work and excited to see the improvements we make.