Penn State Smeal MBA students use improv comedy to enhance communication skills

Andrew Krebs
September 30, 2014

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — During their two-week orientation to the program, members of the Penn State Smeal MBA Class of 2016 called upon improvisation comedy techniques to improve their communication and networking skills in a session with CSz Business.

The MBA Improv Communications session is a new initiative this year, says Emily Giacomini, associate director of MBA Career Services. CSz Business player Andrew Tarvin led the two-hour MBA session at Smeal. He coached the group of about 80 students—as well as Penn State Smeal MBA Program staff—through a number of exercises meant to improve listening skills, brainstorming techniques, and teamwork.

“At first glance, someone might ask, ‘Well, what does improv comedy have to do with business?’” said Giacomini. “But Andrew really applied the lessons to business communications and networking, and he did so in a fun and memorable way."

One exercise, meant to show the difficulty of multitasking, required participants to hold a conversation while attempting to solve a math problem in their heads. Another asked participants to explain a concept that seems commonplace to us today—for instance, a microwave—as if they were speaking to someone who lived centuries ago.

Group discussions after each exercise gave participants an opportunity to talk about the parts that came naturally and the parts that were most challenging. Tarvin used these discussions to compare the skills necessary for each exercise to the skills they might use in a business meeting or at a networking opportunity.

"The MBA Improv Communications session served as a way for us to provide some new communications skills that our students will be able to call upon over the next two years of the program and beyond."

— Carrie Marcinkevage, managing director
of the Penn State Smeal MBA Program

“A critical mission of our orientation program for first-year students is to prepare them for almost immediate interaction with companies and recruiters as they begin to investigate summer internship opportunities and potential post-MBA careers,” said Carrie Marcinkevage, managing director of the Penn State Smeal MBA Program. “The MBA Improv Communications session served as a way for us to provide some new communications skills that our students will be able to call upon over the next two years of the program and beyond.”

About CSz Business

CSz Business is a global network of companies that transform the world through improvisation's unique ability to foster collaboration, inspiration, gratitude and fun. These values touch the lives of individuals, families, friends, and organizations alike. Since 2004, CSz New York has provided the New York Metro area with entertainment, education, and corporate training for hundreds of organizations. Learn more at www.csznewyork.com.

About the Penn State Smeal MBA Program

The internationally ranked residential Penn State Smeal MBA Program positions students from around the world for their future careers. The two-year program, based on the University Park campus, begins with a focus on business fundamentals. Through summer internships with top companies and concentration opportunities in areas such as finance, marketing, and supply chain management, students then personalize their Smeal MBA experiences to align with their career aspirations. Learn more at www.smeal.psu.edu/mba.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated September 30, 2014