Five weeks ago on May 24, we graduated from Harvard Business School with the Class of 2018. We moved out of our apartments and headed to Jackson, Mississippi for a weeklong training with Freedom Summer Collegiate. After training we drove to Meridian, Mississippi to teach a month-long summer class on Business and Entrepreneurship to high school students at the Meridian Freedom Project.
After two years at HBS (and for Kaitlin, an additional year at HKS), we wanted to take some of the many ideas and concepts we had spent hours learning and pay it forward. Both of us are interested in a career in education, and when we learned about Freedom Summer Collegiate through HBS’ pro-bono consulting group, Consulting for Impact, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to spend a month learning with high school students and (hopefully) getting them excited about becoming business leaders.
Over the past four weeks, students in our class learned about Finance, Accounting, Marketing, Leadership, Negotiations, and Strategy by reading HBS cases, just like at HBS. They tackled cases on Under Armour, BYJU’s, Walmart, Snapple, Cynthia Carroll at Anglo American, and Netflix. It was funny reading the Netflix case with students who have only ever known Netflix as a streaming service and have never been inside a Blockbuster, but our students quickly grasped the key concepts. To apply the lessons they learned through cases, students used the design thinking process to design products for their own startups. This included trips to the mall for customer interviews and we have to brag that they were much more fearless than most of our HBS classmates during FGI customer interviews. This Friday, on our last day of class, students will pitch their startups “Shark Tank”-style to community business leaders. Their businesses include a tie-dye t-shirt company, a custom sandal design house, a residential real estate project, and an innovative universal video game console.
The weeks since graduation have flown by, and we could not be happier to have spent the last month teaching in Meridian. Our students are smart, motivated, and have brilliant ideas, and we have spent hours debating the best way to spend our limited class time to cover the most relevant business topics. We frequently joke that we are getting a bonus month of HBS education because we talk about concepts for hours each day. We learned how hard it is to simplify complex terms into their most essential parts and realized just how full of business jargon some HBS cases are. It’s been awesome to see students grow in their comfort with business concepts and vocabulary from their first case to the last one. Along the way, students have raised and explored some of the biggest challenges facing today’s business leaders -- from how the internet should be regulated to how to build trust with employees.
While students have been learning about business, we’ve experienced the ups and downs of learning how to teach. When do we push everyone to read another page? How many times is too many to reinforce what COGS is? Finally, how do we keep everyone excited and engaged while tackling challenging case readings? Just as in an HBS case, it seems like there is rarely one right answer, but we both agree that our appreciation for our HBS professors and earlier teachers has grown with each day.
We are grateful to the Social Enterprise Initiative and Career and Professional Development for their help with making our summer teaching in Meridian possible. Thank you to our classmates and friends who generously donated money so that we could provide startup funding to each student business. And a final thanks to the city and residents of Meridian -- we loved exploring the beautiful parks, culinary hotspots, and historic and cultural sites in Meridian and can’t wait to return soon!
This fall, Kaitlin will rejoin the Boston Consulting Group in their Seattle office. Alex will be working for Parthenon-EY in Boston.