Posted by: Louis Lavelle on July 24, 2009
By Rachel Z. Arndt
If you happen to be in College Station, Texas, on Aug. 5, don’t be surprised if you come across some MBAs from Texas A&M’s Mays Business School (Texas A&M Full-Time MBA Profile) acting in some very un-MBA-like ways. Teams of MBA candidates will be rescuing people from overturned trains atop one another in seemingly impossible formations. They’ll be extracting one live victim from a confined space. And they’ll be lowering another from the top of a two-story building.
There’s no need for alarm, though—these scenarios are just part of a day-long simulation at the Texas Engineering Extension Disaster City, where Texas A&M MBA and EMBA students turn from market-savvy businesspeople into fast-acting rescuers. During the disaster extravaganza, teams of “rescuers” and “communicators” work to save people from situations usually only encountered by emergency first responders.
Mays hopes students will learn how to think quickly and respond to problems that are completely unexpected—and highly unlikely, given their probable futures in offices and trading floors.
Besides the physical difficulty of coordinating and pulling off tough rescues in a foreign environment, students must also respond appropriately to media and victims’ families.
“They had to decide what was most important and solve real problems creatively,” says Kelli Kilpatrick, director of the Mays MBA program.
The simulation is especially relevant given the financial crisis, she says. It’s a completely unique way to teach crisis management, she added, and it truly keeps students on their toes.
“There is simply no substitute for putting people in out-of-the-box situations to see how they react and learn from the experience,” says Michael Wesson, associate professor of management and one of the creators of the program.
This is not the first crisis-management simulation of its kind—although other schools tend to take a slightly tamer approach.
Students at the MIT Sloan School of Management (MIT Sloan Full-Time MBA Profile) spent two days participating in the “Bosnian Peace-Keeping Force,” where they worked to rescue hypothetical refugees. The University of Washington’s Foster School of Business (Foster Full-Time MBA Profile) teaches students how to deal with media in a simulation that’s part of the “Corporate Communication and Media Relations” course.