When Nike Women launched its line of plus-size athletic apparel last spring, Megan Rouse, MBA ’17, had the satisfaction of seeing the research and insights of her Oregon Executive MBA capstone project put into action—before she had even graduated from the program.
In her position as a portfolio manager in Nike’s global community impact team, Rouse helps manage the company’s charitable and community efforts around the world, with a focus on getting kids active through sport and physical activity. Rewarding as she finds her current work, Rouse was looking to challenge herself by diving deep into a project for another part of the organization.
The capstone project—the in-depth, multi-month undertaking that students work on throughout their second year in the Oregon Executive MBA—was the perfect opportunity to tackle something new and challenging.
“I knew I wanted to do a project with Nike Women," said Rouse. “The team was evaluating the opportunity to launch a plus-size line, and they wanted the additional bandwidth to really dig in and make sure they did it right. I was able to bring a fresh perspective on the consumer and how to best serve her.”
Rouse’s task was to analyze the market and collect consumer insights, and then develop a full strategic plan for the plus-size business.
To gather consumer insights, Rouse talked with plus-size fitness influencers she found on social media. She also interviewed plus-size athletes. Taking on a secret shopper role, she went out to stores to see what was currently available.
“Seeing the lack of options for these women was eye-opening,” Rouse said.
With her capstone topic determined before she started her second year in the Oregon Executive MBA, Rouse was able to use learnings from her courses to inform the early stages of her research. She used her capstone project as the topic in the fall term’s first two courses: Corporate Strategy, taught by Senior Instructor II of Management Beth Hjelm, and Marketing Strategy, taught by Powell Distinguished Senior Instructor II of Marketing Doug Wilson.
“This was helpful from a time-management perspective, and it was also great to have early-stage thought-partnership and critique to get me going on the right foot,” she said. “Having the opportunity to bounce ideas off my classmates was also really valuable.”
Rouse presented two reports to the Nike Women leadership team. Along with consumer insights, Rouse delivered a concrete execution plan, including product, brand, and distribution strategies. And like all Oregon Executive MBA students in their final term of the program, she also presented her project to her capstone advisor and one other.
Seeing her research put into action was certainly gratifying for Rouse. But even if the results hadn’t been so quick, the work she did came with its own intrinsic rewards.
“To take a big, complicated topic and delve into it, and come up with a plan to help Nike and address a long-underserved consumer group—I feel like I made a difference,” she said.
For current or prospective executive MBA students looking for their own capstone topics, Rouse recommends a simple, two-prong strategy. First, maximize the resources you have to work with internally by picking a topic that you know you can gather support for. Second, choose a topic that you’re truly passionate about because you’re going to spend a lot of time with it.