As part of the Lucas College and Graduate School of Business Dean's Fellowship, two MBA students are working with city and nonprofit partners this spring.

As part of the Lucas College and Graduate School of Business Dean’s Fellowship, two MBA students are working with city and nonprofit partners this spring. Photo by David Schmitz

When Madhumitha Sarveswaran was accepted into the MBA program at the Lucas College and Graduate School of Business, she was interested in finding ways to promote holistic growth in society. She attended the Economic Summit in 2018 when city officials discussed some of the challenges facing the region. When the Lucas College and Graduate School of Business Dean’s Fellowship program was announced this spring in partnership with the City of San Jose Mayor’s Office, she was excited to apply for it as a chance to work on solutions for some of those issues.

During the pilot semester, the Dean’s Fellowship program partnered with San Jose Public Library (SJPL) Works, ICA Fund Good Jobs, a nonprofit that helps develop small businesses, the city’s Office of Economic Development, and the Mayor’s Office. The students are particularly focused on helping small businesses in East San Jose.

“In a classroom, everyone comes up with ideas and wants to test and see if those ideas work,” Sarveswaran said. “When you develop an idea in the classroom you have all the ideal conditions. How do you scale it or how do you find out if it might be impractical?”

For Sarveswaran, who will complete her MBA in May 2019, and Lori Okamoto, who will complete her MBA in August 2019, the fellowship was that opportunity to explore ideas with real-world conditions.

“My favorite part of this internship thus far has been learning about small businesses in San Jose,” Okamoto said. “I am not originally from the Bay Area so most of this information is new to me. I think learning about small business displacement has really helped me broaden my knowledge of this area.”

Sarveswaran said she has appreciated the opportunity to network with professionals from city departments, nonprofits and businesses.

“We attended a meeting and it was eyeopener that there were 17 other organizations that offer services to help small businesses scale or deal with issues of funding,” she said. “There are so many things out there, but how do we help them bridge the gap?”

Through the fellowship the students have been researching small business community needs through secondary and primary research that includes data review and analysis as well as direct outreach.

“I applied to this fellowship in order to gain more business-related knowledge and then have a chance to apply this in real-world situations,” said Okamoto, who said the program allows her to connect her undergraduate degree in sociology to her MBA work. “In the future, I hope to get into business operations or business data analytics, as both these jobs require understanding and analyzing data.”

As an international student from India, Sarveswaran said she would encourage other international students to apply for the fellowship in the future.

“I never thought this experience would be so big,” she said. “Everything you do is actually impacting somebody and it is something that will stand out for you in your career.”

After completing her MBA this spring, she plans to complete a course on project management and will take a job in that field. The fellowship has offered her plenty of experience in that arena, from time tracking, assigning tasks and managing deliverables, as well as the market research and survey work.