MIM students have been busy this week with presentations for their capstone projects. For most groups, this is the halfway point of their capstone project, and a good time to assess the progress made so far, and also think critically about what steps need to be taken to ensure successful completion of the project in November.
The mid-project presentations themselves are a chance for capstone teams to meet with their project advisor, capstone project advisor, and the director of the MIM program, and present their progress, challenges, and plans for the remainder of the project. Teams are given 15 minutes to present their findings, which often include the results of secondary and primary research they have conducted, as well as any initial recommendations that they may have for their clients. Advisors will then ask some general questions and provide feedback which may be of use to teams as they move forward.
Although we are only halfway through the projects so far, there are a few lessons and insights that my team and I have discovered through our experience in this process that could be helpful for future MIM students to know. Below is a quick FAQ list with some tips and advice on MIM capstone projects that may come in handy.
What are the MIM capstone projects?
Capstone projects (also called Exit Projects by some people) are real-world business projects that MIM students do for participating companies. These projects are intended to provide students a culminating experience over the last two terms of the MIM program, and a way to apply their knowledge and business skills to real projects that their sponsors (companies) provide. Projects typically focus on specific questions that the company is trying to answer, such as how they might enter an international market, find and qualify suppliers, or develop a plan for future growth and expansion.
What is the timeframe for MIM capstone projects?
Most projects begin around late June or early July and wrap up around the end of November, although exceptions are sometimes made if the project sponsor needs a different timeframe. Students are expected to work continuously for the duration of the project, which means that although MIM students have a break from classes during the second half of the summer, they should still be staying on schedule with their capstone projects.
Who is responsible for finding project sponsors?
In most cases the business school and the MIM program director will be in charge of finding companies to sponsor projects, but some savvy MIM students will sometimes propose projects for companies that they may have connections to in the local area. The best advice here is that if you have an idea for a project yourself, start early by talking to the company and proposing a project idea, and try to be as specific as possible. An even more basic tip would be to network with business people around Portland as much as you can during the early part of the MIM program, so that when it comes time to start thinking about capstone projects, you have some good connections within the business community that you can tap for this purpose.
How much time should students expect to dedicate to their capstone projects?
Students should expect to meet with their teams at least once a week for most of the 5 months that they are working on their projects, and should also be spending a few hours each week doing individual research. The MIM program says that teams typically put in a total of around 600-900 hours of work on the projects over the course of 5 months, but this will vary considerably depending on the specifics of each project, as well as the dedication of each team and individual. Regardless of how many hours a team actually spends on the project, the important thing is to work consistently every week, so that you are not rushed over the last month or two trying to finish everything at the last minute. The mid-project presentations that MIM students do in September are therefore useful in giving students a chance to assess how much they have done, and whether they are on track with their projects.
What are MIM students expected to deliver to their project sponsors by the end of the project?
Students must put together a written report of their findings and recommendations on the project, and give a presentation to their project sponsor detailing the results of their research. Students should approach the project as if it is really a professional report for their actual job. While you shouldn’t expect that doing a capstone project for a company will get you a job their after graduation, this has happened for students in the past, so put in your best effort on the project as if you were trying to impress a future employer. At the very least, the project sponsor may be able to give you a recommendation for other future jobs that you may be applying for elsewhere!
What are some tips for how students can work most effectively throughout their project?
As mentioned above, time management and working consistently are two big points here. Beyond that, communicating openly and respectfully with team members can also help with the collaborative aspect of the project. In most cases, MIM students are assigned teams, and are therefore not able to choose who they work with on their projects. You may be working with people who have very different communication and work styles than yourself, so the capstone experience can be just as valuable an experience for building teamwork and leadership skills as it is a chance to work on research and “hard” business skills.
We hope that these tips may be useful for future MIM students when they begin their own capstone projects. Congratulations to the current MIM students for completing their mid-project presentations, and good luck as you work to complete your projects in the coming weeks!
Josh is a full-time student in the Master of International Management program. After graduating from the University of Oregon with a degree in Japanese, he taught English in Tokyo for 3 years, before moving to China and teaching at a university in the city of Zhengzhou. Inspired by his experiences in Japan and China, he was drawn to the MIM program because of its regional focus on Asia, as well as for Portland State University’s reputation as a leader in the field of sustainable business. He is studying Chinese in the MIM program, but tries to keep up his Japanese whenever he can.