One of the most common bits of feedback Laura B. Cardinal’s Professional MBA (PMBA) class, Strategic Management of Technology and Innovation (SMTI) at the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business, receives at the start of class is:
“I saw the course syllabus and it looked so different than my other classes I was immediately interested.”
But the more powerful feedback Prof. C gets time-after-time at the end of class is:
“SMTI was one of the best classes I’ve taken during in the entire PMBA program. The in-class discussions were amazing because of the different perspectives of my classmates. It literally changed the way I approach my job.”
Reflecting on praise from former students is humbling and excites Prof. C about the future: Who will enroll this semester? Where will our discussions take us? What personality will emerge with the next cohort?
When the Spring II 2021 semester began in mid-March, 21 students were welcomed into the newest SMTI cohort. These dedicated students gave up four entire Saturdays for eight-hour sessions—even during the most beautiful time of the year in South Carolina. In between the alternating Saturdays, there’s a pile of required reading to set the stage for each class that fuels the deep, yet wide-ranging discussions. Students say that it’s not about Prof. C grabbing the mic and going at it like a “talking head” at the front of the room. Nope. This is a group dialogue and, quite frankly, students love it.
Which is probably why SMTI has 21 students this semester.
So, who was up to the challenge of SMTI this spring? Almost 50 percent of the cohort is composed of women with ten in all. People of color represent one-third of the 21-student cohort, including five Black students. Fifteen are PMBA students and the remaining six are graduate students from STEM disciplines across campus, like engineering and biomedical sciences.
The beauty of this diversity is reflected in discussions, which welcome and encourage all points of view with respect and without judgment. In other words, students are among friends and colleagues and their insights and opinions matter. For example, one case study inspired students to bring diversity, inclusion, and equity into the conversation. The class then explored, in open forum, what under-representation of women and people of color in business and STEM fields means for innovation and society overall.
The openness of SMTI discussions and the topics covered as they relate to managing technology and innovation has a powerful impact on students. One female student wrote Prof. C after class:
“I’m glad that our class is so diverse with many women and people of color. You’ve cultivated an environment to where I felt comfortable bringing it up.”
This is exactly what SMTI is designed to do: examine innovation in all of its forms, create knowledge, instill a respect for a diversity of perspectives, and empower free discussion that covers all bases, popular or not. The reason being is that’s how it works, or should work, in the “real” world of innovation that addresses a diversity of commercial and social needs.
Says Prof. C, “One of the things I have come to value most about teaching SMTI is that each cohort of students has its own unique personality. They enter as individuals with one point of view and end the semester as part of a cohesive group of friends and colleagues who have learned from one another and reached new heights of critical thinking together. The relationships formed within SMTI are often for a lifetime. That is very powerful, and I am so lucky to have this opportunity to connect so many smart people from all walks of life.”
In closing, the short narrative below was written and read by one student during the last day of class. It is—in the truest sense—the distillation of a semester’s worth of classroom discussion into a brief, forward-looking vision of the future this cohort might experience in a typical day:
“The LED canopy blanketing the ceiling of my room transitions from a starry night scheme to the morning dawn, gently increasing intensity and waking me up. It’s April 24, 2050.
I step out of my bed, take a shower, and get ready for the day. As I put on my shoes, I notice how comfortable they are…the left is slightly larger than the right. The right has slightly more arch support. Each is uniquely printed to fit my foot perfectly. Each is tuned to the perfect amount of cushioning and perfect style. I head downstairs and ask my 3-D Food Printer to make me some breakfast. It received a lab taken by my toothbrush the night before. It noticed I am a little iron deficient, so it adds a few vitamins into the print to make up for it. The weather has been a bit overcast for the last few weeks, so it adds some vitamin D. It also received the latest Covid booster files from the CDC overnight, so incorporates that into the print as well. This pimento cheese and egg biscuit tastes just like the ones I used to buy from Drip back in the 20s.
I notice the time and head out to the driveway to jump in my car to head to work. Out back, the 800 square foot 1 bedroom addition foundation just finished printing last night. The machine has started printing the walls. My parents are coming to visit in two days, so the backyard will be converted to a temporary residence just in time.
It’s a wonderful day so I choose the convertible top for my fuel cell platform. It’s sleek roadster inspired body was a new find on Etsy last week. Etsy is THE place to go for the car body styles to print at home. The large format printer in my garage is halfway finished with the set of kayaks and pickup truck body to take up to the mountains this weekend.
After a long day at work, I stop by my dad’s house on the way home. He had surgery yesterday to repair his hip. I ran into him pruning his bushes in the front yard. The new titanium reinforcements were printed onto the existing bone structure to repair some arthritis.
I catch up on the news as my car drives me back home. As I pull up, I get a notification that the water was shut off to my sprinklers due to a malfunctioning sprinkler head. I accepted the 0.000451 bitcoin charge for a replacement to be printed at home. By the time I get to the office, a replacement is ready for installation. The print file also came with a manufacture specific wrench to swap out the parts. It was a two-minute fix.
After a relaxing evening, I pour myself a glass of Michter’s 10 Year Single Barrel Bourbon and can’t believe it was 30 years ago that I printed a set of bottle openers as a novelty item for my PMBA cohort. Despite all the advances in technology, no printer will be able to replicate the taste of a bourbon mash aged in an American White Oak Barrel.”
-Timothy Hyde, SMTI Cohort SII21, PMBA Class of 2022
Are you interested in enrolling in Laura B. Cardinal’s Darla Moore School of Business PMBA courses on Strategic Management of Technology and Innovation? Want to learn more about SC Innovates, Prof. C’s SmartState Center? Please contact us for more information.
Editor’s Note: A special shout out to Ms. Darla Moore for whom our business school is named and whose energy and acumen inspires all of us at the Moore School.