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Focus Firm Project Teams to Present in Washington D.C.

April 4, 2006

By: Kristin Todd

Baylor University MBA candidates and select faculty members will leave April 2-5 for Washington DC, to convene with government officials and make presentations as part of the Focus Firm project assigned to the candidates each semester.

Dr. Anne Grinols, assistant dean of graduate programs, said the project usually consists of a business to business project. This semester, though, students will experience the theme of government policy and business interface.

"Doing a project like this is so much more life-like than from a classroom perspective," Grinols said. "We took this opportunity and hit the ground running."

Three branches of operating student teams will participate in presentations. The teams will present ideas on implementation of school disaster plans, consumer-driven health care plans and technology transfer issues.

See a photo of the MBAs with Senator Cornyn at the senator's Web site.

Disaster Relief

As schools across the nation have faced crises of shootings and natural disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina, Baylor MBA students have made it their mission to help by proposing disaster preparedness programs.

Byron Blaschke, a lockstep two student, said the foundation of the proposed plan, "Project Vigilance," is based on motivation, planning processes and the use of technology for information updates.

"The plan is really a generalized guidance tool that can be tailored depending on the school where it is implemented," Blaschke said. "By helping with the initial brainstorming process of a plan, we are essentially saving the schools' time and consulting fees."

Blaschke, who holds a degree in business operations, is part of the process team for the project. Through the program, school committees will discuss disaster issues and safety solutions in order to be prepared when tragedy strikes.

"We are really looking to extend the program to rural area schools that may not have as much money as bigger districts," he said.

The technology team for the project looks to keep schools updated through the Internet. The team created, a Web site where schools can register and use as an information network on disaster preparations. Another team will discuss motivating change in behaviors and the ability of sustaining the program once it is accepted.

The three teams, which consist of fifteen students, plan on presenting the program to the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and other federal officials.

"It's not easy to get in front of a high-caliber audience," Blaschke said. "This is definitely a growing and learning experience as we present to high-profile government officials."

Health Care

Three teams of four people will present ideas for a consumer-driven, health care proposal to government officials and U.S. Senate staff members.

Allen Ferguson, a Waco lockstep two student, said the proposal will offer more choices and flexibility to consumers.

"Research has suggested that our current national health care system is going downhill fast. We want to give consumers more choices concerning co-pays, deductibles and premiums, which would encourage more responsible health care consumption," Ferguson said.

Ferguson added that he was excited about the opportunity to present the team's program.

"We want to provide a viable solution to a national health care problem," he said. "We have the chance to present to federal government officials. I don't know how many students at other universities get that kind of unique opportunity."

Charlie Manzanares, another team member, said the group hopes to answer the question of universal health care coverage.

"Our project was to detail a universal health care proposal that keeps market forces governing private health insurance, while providing government aid to those who need it," Manzanares said. "The new health care coverage would only extend to those currently without health insurance. Those who currently have coverage would remain untouched."

Manzanares said if a person wishes to purchase health insurance but cannot afford it, government aid would be offered. Under the proposal, each person who is insured or purchases health insurance would carry a health insurance proof of purchase card, which would be e-registered and presented when purchasing retail goods. For those who do not wish to participate, a small levy on retail goods would be imposed to cover their costs of traditional care that is not reimbursed.

"We've presented to faculty and have received input and suggestions on the project," he said. "It's good to know this project could add value to and potentially impact many lives."

Technology Transfer

Another team of seven students will work in conjunction with the National Science Foundation on issues of technology transfer from universities to the marketplace. Students will look at universities operations to receive funding for invented products before they are released on the market, and how to predict the product's potential success.

Michael Gallimore, an Amarillo lockstep three student, serves as a leader for the technology transfer team. Gallimore said the two-part presentation will focus on tech transfer offices' goals, which include funding, transition and product success.

"The first part is a detailed explanation of the opposing views of the tech transfer process, meaning revenue and throughput," he said. "The second part of the presentation is a set of three recommendations to improve success of the tech transfer process through improved relationships, education and knowledge management systems."

Gallimore said the presentation will highlight viewpoints of revenue versus throughput focuses in the process. It will also address the issues of building relationships and connectivity.

"This connectivity will allow for a smoother transition through the phases and ultimately provide funding for commercialization," he said.

The team has been in contact with Dr. Rose Wesson at the National Science Foundation. Weekly conference calls have been made between Wesson and the team to update information and verify progress.

Gallimore said he is confident in his team's findings and looks forward to the opportunity to present to NSF.

"I think our recommendations are applicable and have a realistic chance of being implemented, especially if there are no logistical or budgetary constraints," he said.

As the MBA student teams take hold of this opportunity, Dr. Grinols is confident the trip will be a memorable, interactive learning experience.

"Taking the students from Texas to Washington is a huge step that provides them with a competitive advantage," Dr. Grinols said. "They will have a better understanding of government viewpoints, which will help them deal with governmental roles in the business world."

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