Wharton EMBA Student Gets More than Expected from Field Application Project

Wharton | San Francisco EMBA student Brian Davis thought his Field Application Project (FAP) would be an opportunity to gain valuable hands-on experience addressing a real-world problem. However, when his company’s senior management saw the results of his project, he got a lot more than experiential learning – he got a new position.

The FAP, the culminating project of the core course on Management of People at Work, requires each learning team to identify a business problem at a team member’s company and conduct a systemic analysis, presenting the findings and recommendations to company executives. Davis’ team chose his employer, Allegiant Travel Company (owner and operator of Allegiant Air) as the focus of their FAP.

“My company has undergone rapid growth in a short time, which attracted the interest of my learning team. When I joined Allegiant 6.5 years ago as director of airports, we were still a startup airline with 11 planes and $35 million in revenue. Today, we have 51 planes and $660 million in revenue,” explains Davis. “In light of that degree of change, my team wanted to look at how the company is managing its culture.”

Senior managers at Allegiant, he says, were supportive of the FAP. “They had already had conversations about whether or not this area needed attention so they were eager to have a group of Wharton students conduct an independent analysis. The CEO even sent out emails to all division leaders expressing interest in the project and encouraging them to complete our surveys.”

Overall, the team found that the company’s issues were typical of an organization going through an intense growth phase. “There was some breakdown in understanding across the company about its mission – not all of the leaders articulated it in the same way – but we also identified a very high level of optimism, as everyone was very excited to be part of the solution,” says Davis, who is a first-year student. “We showed that the company has a big opportunity, but needs to focus on a strong internal communications campaign.”

Hearing these results, senior managers agreed that the company needs to tell its story not only to investors, but also within the organization. “They needed someone to focus on this area who knows the company and they asked me if I would take on this role,” recalls Davis, who was excited to become director of communications.

In addition to resulting in a new job for Davis, he says that the FAP was valuable on many levels. “We all have jobs, but the FAP gave the other members of my learning team exposure to a new industry. For me, I could dive in and see parts of my company that I wouldn’t normally have seen in my regular role and hear my teammates’ perspectives. It was a great experience to have a link between what we were learning in class and the real world.”

Learn more about the Field Application Projects.

Read about a Field Application Project at Microsoft.