Working with various charitable foundations, Len Middleton has met a president, a queen and a pair of rock stars, but what he prefers to talk about is the work his students have done with those organizations.
Middleton, a lecturer in corporate strategy and international business at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, teaches four courses, including one that studies the successes and failures of family-owned and operated businesses. Much of his work, however, is with MAPs, or multidisciplinary action projects. Middleton leads teams of students to develop business plans for start-up companies, nonprofit organizations or corporations looking to expand or make a change.
Through these MAPs, Middleton and his students have worked with President Jimmy Carter’s Carter Center developing an IT strategy for war-torn Liberia, written strategic plans for the Rainforest Foundation started by Sting and his wife, helped develop a business plan at the Jubilee School in Jordan for Queen Noor, and organized a start-up plan for Bono’s One Foundation DATA Report.
“We had some good impact,” Middleton says of working with Bono’s foundation. “Students got to meet (Bono). It was fun.”
The MAPs force students to study past businesses, industry and market dynamics, and the companies themselves in order to develop new business plans, strategies, marketing and branding ideas or ways to expand.
“(Students) have to take what they’ve learned in the classroom and apply it to different situations,” he says, adding that each experience is different and requires a unique style of teaching.
Perhaps the most notable MAP was when Habitat for Humanity asked Ross School students to help design a disaster response plan in January 2005. A team of MBA students, working over the course of two and a half months, created a plan that quickly was approved and implemented. That work ended up serving as the game plan for Habitat for Humanity when Hurricane Katrina struck the southeast later that summer.
Nonprofits like Habitat for Humanity don’t have the same financial resources that big corporations have, but Middleton says he likes these projects because of that challenge, and that they offer a great opportunity for students to learn balance in their work.
“We’ve touched students in a socially conscious way,” he says. “They’ve had an experience that won’t leave them. They haven’t forgotten their heart, but they still have their business head.”
Middleton joined the staff at the Ross School in January 1999, teaching a MAP course. He says his job simply is to be an adviser and resource to his students, and diverts much of the credit for the MAPs to the students themselves.
“They’re so smart,” he says. “The more you challenge them, the more they rise to the occasion.”
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Len Middleton, lecturer in corporate strategy and international business at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, on what inspires him: "What drives me is the ability to keep creating business leaders that have impact."
Bright Sheng, “Never Far Away,” noon-1 p.m. Jan. 24 in Room 1636, School of Social Work building.