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CSU executive MBA students get cooking

Executive MBA students from Cleveland State University’s Monte Ahuja College of Business recently took Engaged Learning to the next level – starting at a local grocery store.

To kick off the 19-month EMBA program, new classmates participated in a weeklong residency consisting of educational activities and team-building exercises. The highlight was a cooking competition Monday, August 12. With 24 hours’ notice, students had to choose teams – diversified in terms of gender, race, ethnicity and professional background – and plan a menu representing the backgrounds of team members.

The winners – pictured above from left are Robert Brown, Va’Kedia Stiggers, Hany Anton, Andy Green and Sean Horvath – rose to the challenge with a “Taste of the Mediterranean” menu, including grilled shrimp, grilled peach with sweet ricotta, kofta, Greek salad and hummus.

The first stop for the competitors was a Heinen’s grocery store in the Cleveland suburb of Brecksville, where each team was given $125 and 30 minutes to shop for the necessary ingredients to complete its meal. Heinen’s, a family-owned business, was chosen to complement the EMBA program’s entrepreneurship theme.

“We were thrilled to work with Heinen’s for this event,” said Dr. Elad Granot, director of CSU’s EMBA program. “It was very important to align ourselves with a local company that has an entrepreneurial spirit and a great reputation in the community.”

When the shopping was done, students reconvened at the home of CSU management and labor professor Susan Storrud-Barnes. There, after assembling a small grill, each team had 45 minutes to cook its meal. The results were presented to a panel of judges made up of faculty, alumni and special guests, who rated the dishes on presentation, plating, originality and taste.

“The team-building cooking competition took students out of their comfort zones and forced them to work together on a project that, for many, was in completely unfamiliar territory,” Dr. Storrud-Barnes said. “The students, who just met the day before, needed to learn about and use each other’s strengths to successfully complete the challenges.”

CSU has offered the rigorous AACSB-accredited EMBA program since 1979. It’s one of the oldest graduate programs in Ohio, with more than 1,000 alumni.