Action Learning Project

At the Intersection of Education and Experience
Summer 2016

What is the Action Learning Project (ALP)?

The ALP is an opportunity for Master of Arts in Management (MA) students to gain real-world experience solving business problems, building and thriving in high-performing teams, and communicating results. The two-part project plays an integral role in the 10-month graduate degree program.

Cigna sponsored ALP1, which allows students to begin developing these skills. For Fall 2015, each of the 32 student teams focused on creating a strategy for Cigna to encourage millennials to use preventive healthcare.

For ALP2, 25 companies sponsored projects this spring. As students further honed their professional capabilities, organizations received fresh ideas, connected with millennials, and gained applicable solutions to a business problem.

“Providing students with a relevant and real business experience makes them much better prepared for their post-MA careers and their first job. Graduates better understand the process for solving a problem within a business context for a real organization, and how to collaborate and work professionally with others.

The ALP Excellence Award

ALP sponsor companies nominate student teams for the ALP Excellence Award at the conclusion of the project. Alex Cella, Rachel Jordan, Mary Katherine Prince, Melanie Williams, and Devin Zimmerman, all MA 2016 students, won this year.

They are part of Wake Forest University School of Medicine’s Emerging Leaders Program, a 34-month sequential degree program in which students first earn an MA from the School of Business and then a Master of Medical Science in Physician Assistant Studies (PA) at the School of Medicine. The program produces highly capable entrepreneurial physician assistants equipped with the business skills to succeed in a complex healthcare environment.

Their team identified ways Wake Forest Baptist Health’s Care at Home could expand its services for oncology patients. “The project showed me how healthcare facilities can operate as a business, while keeping the patient’s needs first,” said Cella. “This was also a great opportunity to establish relationships with members of Wake Forest Baptist before starting PA school.”

The Ciena Experience

“There are two words we sometimes use at Ciena that apply here: ‘Mind. Blown,’” said Ciena’s Senior Director of Executive and Leadership Development Alana Palmer.

A Fortune 1000 company with offices around the world, Ciena was looking for a way to attract and retain Millennials and women to its operations. The company focuses on helping organizations build software-driven networks to deliver on-demand experiences.

“The Wake Forest team literally redesigned our career portal website through this project,” Palmer said. “They did it with competitive analysis, deep research, and drawing from their own experiences. In a few months, they’ll see the actual business impact they’ve had at Ciena.”

“Working with Ciena over the past five months has validated my reasons for coming to the MA program. It was an incredibly gratifying experience to work with a client over an extended period of time, take a deep dive on a business problem to quickly learn all that you can about their organization, and provide recommendations and strategies for implementation that are truly valued.”

Palmer traveled from Ottawa, Canada, to attend the MA program’s end-of-year celebration on campus in May. While Ciena representatives spoke glowingly of the impact the Wake Forest team had on its future, MA team members were also enthusiastic about the opportunity they had to expand their business acumen.

“Throughout our ALP experience we were decision-makers for a Fortune-ranked company, sharing our team’s decisions with the CEO, Chief Marketing Officer, and SVP of Human Resources, and we saw the implementation of our ideas,” said Eyden Thomas (MA ’16). “As a result of working with Ciena and its HR team, I plan to pursue a career in HR.”

“When we embarked on this partnership we did not realize we would be touched by such incredible individuals,” said Palmer. “We feel truly honored to have been part of this journey.”



If your organization has an interest in learning more about the ALP program and/or participating, please contact:
Michelle Horton.
Phone: 336-758-3526