MSM-Finance students have a lot of support from one another and from faculty as they wrestle with complex, real-world risk management issues. Each project is different, so faculty end up learning along with the students! Read more of Peter Ritchken's insights on the Projects in Risk Management Capstone.
Q: What is the team experience like for students?
A: There are about five students in each team, and they get a lot of support. The teams benefit from the expert coaching of Bonnie Richley, PhD, assistant professor of organizational behavior. She works with me to form teams based on learning styles and characteristics. After meeting with the clients, she helps each team develop a project contract. Bonnie is great at managing group dynamics to encourage team performance—and team fun. Bonnie mentors the team throughout the life of the project. I act as a senior consultant to each project. I am involved in early meetings with the firm and mentor each group. The firm also provides mentors to the teams. I have to confess that as an active participant on every single project, I have learned a lot from them! After all the projects are completed, Bonnie runs a special debriefing session where all the teams share their experiences related to team success.
Q: So what kinds of activities do the students engage in on these projects?
A: In most situations, the problems we tackle are problems that are of current acute interest to the firm. The solution process usually requires developing appropriate financial models, programming them up, collecting data, empirically validating the models, and then writing up user manuals and final reports with executive summaries.
Q: Do you need to keep on top of the team's progress?
A: We have regular class meetings as well as team meetings and site visits. We often spend our class meetings doing "just-in-time" learning, where we have to very quickly get up to speed with topics that the students have never seen before. Just the other day, we were all reading details of the Basel II and Basel III global regulatory standards on bank capital and liquidity, so that we could better understand possible changes in regulatory capital guidelines. And we do run into problems when there are miscommunications, team issues, data problems, etc. But working through problems, and in some cases even confronting failure, is all part of the learning process. It's all about how you deal with adversity, how you deal with stress, and how you buckle down and work cohesively as an effective analytical team. That's when real learning and maturing takes place.