PhilaU’s Strategic Design MBA program offers design consulting to local orgs - Generocity Philly


Mar. 23, 2016 9:33 am

PhilaU’s Strategic Design MBA program offers design consulting to local orgs

Enrollment is now open. Seven organizations in the nonprofit and public sectors have benefitted so far.

Strategically designing.


Editor's note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the students' design consulting was offered for free. There is "a modest fee for service attached as is pro forma for the university's engagements with industry," Natalie Nixon said. Additionally, the MBA program is 22 months long, not 22 weeks. 
Got a problem within your organization that won’t seem to go away? A cohort of Philadelphia University students might be able to lend a hand by implementing their fresh problem-solving methodology.

Those students are part of the Natalie Nixon‘s 22-month, 10-course Strategic Design MBA program, in which they learn how to develop simple processes that can solve complex problems. In the third course, Nixon said, students are paired with orgs and “tasked with creatively disrupting their clients’ current business model.”

Local organizations can walk away from the experience with a possible solution. The students walk away with a brand-new MBA. Since its inception, the program has worked with 20 organizations. Here are seven in the nonprofit and public sectors:

  • Fare & Square
  • The Abington Art Center
  • Girl Scouts
  • iPraxis
  • Painted Bride Art Center
  • School District of Philadelphia

“It’s really intensive rapid prototyping,” Nixon said.

Nixon said Fare Square, the country’s first nonprofit grocery store in Chester, came to PhilaU with a limited sales volume and low repeat customer count. The students who worked on that project came up with a solution of a food truck that would make deliveries.

“They do ethnographic research, they go out into the community, they interview a whole range of people,” Nixon said. “These are MBA students that don’t just stop at statistical analysis or surveys, but are really trying to understand the point of view of the user.”

For the School District, students came up with new, integrated roles for janitors and facility managers to make students feel more at home.

“When you think about it, kids are in school five out of seven days of the week, practically nine months out of the year,” she said. “It should be their home, but there are so many infrastructural, regulatory and maintenance challenges.”

Enrollment is open now. Check out Nixon’s Pulse story below for more info.

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Those interested in learning more about the program, including two open scholarship opportunities, can visit the site, or contact Nixon at nixonn AT


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