With the first semester coming to a close , The National Center for Smart Growth continues to engage with professors and students in The Partnership for Action Learning in Sustainability (PALS) courses. We had the opportunity to speak with Professor Protiti Dastidar, a professor in The Robert H. Smith School of Business, about her Management Consulting course and what she and her students are up to in the City of Frederick. The PALS course is one of several drawing from multiple colleges across the university. Take a look at her remarks, which have been edited for clarity and brevity, and add your thoughts in the comment section.
Could you tell us about your PALS course and what you’ll be doing with the City of Frederick?
It’s an MBA class that has 35 students enrolled. We’re working with the City as part of my Management Consulting course. We’re working with Economic Development and Richard Griffin, our main contact with the city through the course. He selected two things to work on: the Municipal Airport and proposed hotel conference center
Could you tell us a bit about the course’s work with the Municipal Airport?
In the course there are 6 teams (2 teams working on airport and 4 teams are working on hotel/conference center project.
Richard came to us thinking about expanding the runway, which would allow for more corporate jets to come in. There’s hangar space available. As the city looks for an opportunity to expand the airport – part of which includes potential for expanding the runway, we’re investigating whether or not that’s a good idea. We’re looking at who are competitors, what’s the demand, nature of the target, what kind of facilities, etc. Examining market opportunity analysis is what the students are working on.
And the hotel-conference work?
Well when we first met with Richard, the City wasn’t sure which company would build the space. They’ve now settled on Marriott. Currently, Marriott is planning a 300-500 person conference center. Richard is interested in a larger center. Again, we’re providing an industry opportunity analysis where we’ll examine the need for a larger conference center in the city. Students will provide an opportunity analysis and determine if there is a demand for a larger conference center. We’re investigating the possibility of what makes the most sense.
What’s been the students’ reaction to the course work?
All of the students are part-time MBA students and work full time. They’ve been very excited and some have been quite enterprising. They’ve spoken with airport officials and local staff and even became an unofficial part-time employee for the day. They’re very much into it and enjoying that they can get their hands dirty. For example, Richard and Michelle joined our class a few weeks ago and are now coming back this week. Our course is only seven weeks long, so it moves at a rapid pace. The students have a long list of questions and will discuss their draft piece of analyses.
Richard has said he’ll arrange meetings to gather with all key parties both at municipal airport and those behind the conference center to meet all the important, key stakeholders. We’ll follow up when we know more and report our findings.