Real-world rewards

Photograph of Lisa Andersen and Natalia Nikolova

Lisa Andersen and Natalia Nikolova. Photographer: Richard Setiadi

In summary: 
  • UTS Business students are delivering real-world projects for clients from the community sector as part of the subject Management Consulting
  • The "life-changing" subject has earnt a national citation for outstanding contributions to student learning, and a UTS Learning and Teaching Award for Shopfront Community Engagement Coordinator Lisa Andersen and Senior Lecturer Natalia Nikolova

Natalia Nikolova believes flipped learning is the way of the future. Driven by “a passion for student learning, as well as a passion to contribute to the community sector and develop students’ social responsibility”, Nikolova has found success using the flipped learning approach.

Photographer: Anna Zhu Photographer: Anna Zhu

“It’s about asking students to prepare and read a range of materials outside the classroom, so when they come to class, we’re ready to do the more high-level learning such as problem-solving and solution generation,” explains Nikolova, a Senior Lecturer in Management.

Using these principles, Nikolova delivers the subject Management Consulting in collaboration with UTS Shopfront’s Community Engagement Coordinator Lisa Andersen.

Shopfront links non-profit organisations with UTS knowledge, resources and professional expertise. It’s these “deep connections with the community sector” that shape Management Consulting, giving students the opportunity to work on real consulting projects in class.

“By exposing students to these types of clients and community issues, we’re inspiring social responsibility and teaching them that the world is not just made up of big banks, mining companies and consumer goods companies – it’s also made up of a lot of small organisations that have very valuable social missions,” says Nikolova.

“It’s an unusual and valuable opportunity for students as future business leaders, given the global context where the values of traditional business schools have been called into question,” says Andersen.

“As well as developing professional skills, students undertake complex projects with Aboriginal communities, refugee populations, frail aged and disability groups and remote Australia, giving them profound insights into other lived experiences.

“From our 2013 research on the subject’s alumni, we know this has had life-changing impact.” 

Shopfront offers a broad range of projects for students across all faculties. Since its inception in 1996, the program has delivered 853 successful projects with community partners and thousands of UTS students.

Projects have included communication campaigns, design, social research, IT systems and business plans for non-profit organisations, who normally wouldn’t be able to afford external advice and services.

Nikolova believes such collaborative projects epitomise the flipped learning approach. “The subject involves very little time delivering standard lectures to students – the majority of the time, they’re working in teams applying knowledge and skills to real-life problems.”

As part of the Management Consulting subject, each team of students has the opportunity to work with an experienced industry consultant to coach them through consulting methodologies and practices.

“It’s not about the coaches solving the problems and telling the students, ‘This is how you do it’,” says Nikolova. “It’s about the coaches giving feedback and advice to inform students’ decision-making.”

“Each project every semester is different, coming with its own set of real issues and challenges,” says Andersen. “That’s the strength of this approach and students regularly tell us Management Consulting is both the most demanding and the most rewarding subject of their degree.”

In recognition of their success developing students’ professional skills and social responsibility, Nikolova and Andersen were awarded the 2013 UTS Learning and Teaching Award for Team Teaching.

“UTS prides itself on being more practice-oriented in our education,” says Nikolova. “I think this subject is a clear example of how well this is done.”

Update:

On Tuesday 16 September Andersen and Nikolova received a citation for their outstanding contributions to student learning from the the Federal Government. Read more

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