MMR Experiential Learning: Preparing the next generation of retail innovators

The McGill Bensadoun Master of Management in Retailing (MMR) is designed to offer a well-rounded deep dive into the world of retail, and one of the cornerstones of its approach is experiential learning. While the material taught within the four walls of a classroom lays a strong foundation, ultimately, it’s being able to apply that knowledge in a real-world setting that is perhaps most beneficial to our students.

“[The reason behind the program’s emphasis on experiential learning] is twofold, really,” explained Brigitte Martin, MMR Industry Liaison. “The first part is a student learns very much with hands-on experience about the actual realities and challenges in real time, with true deliverables that affect a total work team.”

When working within the context of a classroom, your work ethic, your skills, your timeliness, it only impacts the individual and their grade. But working with an industry partner on a set project with the goal of solving a real problem using the skills learned in the classroom, there is more at stake. One individual’s work can impact others and the overall success of the project.

“You can accelerate a team with your teamwork, just like you can hinder a team with your teamwork,” explained Martin.

The other value of experiential learning, Martin added, is that these projects and opportunities help validate the students’ career goals.

“They may have an understanding of what being a product manager is, because that's a popular job title that they apply to,” she said. “But your idea of what that is at Nespresso, SSense, or Walmart could be very different than what you thought it was.”

In addition to validating the career goal itself, this also validates that the skills needed to succeed in that role are there, she added.

As we enter a new semester, Martin and her team are working hard to pair students with big name companies for the internship component of the program. She meets with the students one-on-one early on in their time with the program to flesh out exactly what each student is looking for in terms of sectors, companies and potential roles.

“I try to ensure that they have meaningful internships,” she said.

Not only do students have the chance to learn through hands-on work with corporate partners, but they also get to hear from industry leaders through the Bensadoun School of Retail Management’s Retail Leaders Talks. Program Director Anwar White, BSRM Senior Development Officer Angela Kempf, Martin, and her team work hard to ensure a steady stream of speakers who dedicate time to sharing their experiences in retail with our MMR students.

We try to diversify our guest speaker offering,” Martin said, “[But a common theme is] they talk about the importance of developing mentors and the importance of understanding that sometimes you make a career choice, because if you want to be good at that, you must do this. For example, we had John Gerhardt, the creative Global Director of LVMH’s Moet Hennessy.”

Gerhardt detailed his whole journey of knowing that he wanted to work in luxury and understanding that in order to make it in that field, he had to understand the Asian market, and so he accepted a job in Hong Kong that maybe wasn’t his dream job but that gave him that critical understanding and ultimately led him to where he is today.

The students can listen to these stories and gain a greater understanding of the different sectors of retail from a first-hand point of view and more often than not, these speakers make themselves available to the students long after they visit the class to answer more questions and just generally be a mentor.

“I think it's a great opportunity,” said Maria Shirokov, a current student in the program. “It's not every day that you get to listen to these very successful retail leaders, and just having the opportunity to listen to their experience and their career path and what they've done is very motivating.”

At the end of the day, Martin and her team with the MMR hope that each student who comes through the program finds a role they will thrive in and where they will be able to offer to the retail environment and landscape a balanced point of view on retail, strong analytical problem-solving skills, and an innovative mindset.

“We want to be able to have that notoriety as being very equipped on the analytics side to balance out the intuitive side,” explained Martin. “We want to offer a strong richness of alumni for the retail environment [so employers] are able to know that when they hire from this program, they’re hiring people who know some of the most up to data analytics and diagnostic types of problem-solving tools.”


MMR Program

Learn more about the McGill Master of Management in Retailing Program

 

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The Future of Retail

The MMR program has been made possible thanks to generous donations from Aldo Bensadoun and the Bensadoun School of Retail Management.

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