Hamline MBA Students Partner with Norhart

Over the course of summer, Norhart partnered with Dr. Jae Lee’s 16 MBA students from Hamline University.

The final capstone project was to create the next generation of apartments. Currently, we manage 332 units within Forest Lake and Blaine, MN. Within the last four years, Norhart has since doubled in size. If we want to keep expanding each year, like we plan on doing, then we needed to stay current. We needed to stay ahead of our competitors. It was a win-win scenario.

We would get help from students while giving back to the community and the students would be challenged in a real-life environment while they completed their MBA program.

“This project was more practical, stimulated creativity and provided an opportunity to put your skills to test. It was a complete recap of the MBA program and gave us the courage and bravery to take on real world projects after MBA” said, Calvin Jackson.

Eight Weeks

Unlike their friends in other classes, these students had the opportunity to interact directly with the President of Norhart, Mike Kaeding.

Over the course of eight weeks, the students in groups of three teams, created an in-depth analysis of apartments based upon innovation, marketing, and financial feasibility. The question that the students were supposed to figure out: how to create a better way for people to live?

The teams first met with Mike at Emberwood Apartments on July 2nd to receive the details of the capstone project and a tour, where they got a chance to get to know Mike and his company.

“For me the project really started to take shape on that first meeting with Mike at Emberwood Apartments. I could see the determination and passion that Mike had and the rich history of his family and how that applies to everything that Mike and Norhart stand for” said, Max Carter.

Two weeks later, the teams had their own individual meetings with Mike to brief him on their project as well as to ask any follow-up questions before they presented their projects.

On August 16th, the three teams along with eight of Norharts’ employees and Dean McCarthy met at Hamline where the students were to present their ideas.

Each team was allowed 45 minutes to give their presentation. They presented the many aspects that we take into consideration when developing a new apartment.

They shared some neat ways that we could improve upon and brainstormed things to incorporate. One idea was to create an integrated mobile app for our concierge services and to include greener living into the apartment buildings.

“From a renter’s side you can be selective on many different levels such as amenities, security, curb appeal, etc. From a developer side you really must wear different hats. You must make sure that you are in touch with your residents and know what they are looking for. You must also wear the financial hat to make sure what is affordable and within your budget for the project. You must make sure that every project is satisfying for the renter and the owner. There are two sides to everything, if both sides work together the outcome is amazing” said, Max Carter.

“There were so many good ideas being shared we needed our time alone to take a step back and discuss” says, Mike Kaeding. After the three teams presented their projects, the teams left the room to allow Mike time to choose which group met the criteria the best. “It was very close, but in the end, group three (Jay C. O’Neill, Calvin Jackson, Thao Cao, Max Carter, Maniphone Vannavong, Abdillahi A. Mohamud) was picked the winning team by Norhart” said, Dr. Jae Lee.

To celebrate that the project was over and to thank the students for their hard work, the teams had the opportunity to participate in a networking event with local business leaders arranged by Norhart.

“Since we got done with the project, I always think about Norhart each time I see an apartment building. I can never forget the first company that provided me the opportunity to test my MBA skills. Thank you Norhart team!” shared, Calvin Jackson.

Final Thought

This capstone project was a learning experience for everyone, even you. You see we didn’t know what to expect with we started this partnership with Hamline. It was a risk, but either you take the risk, or you lose the chance to.

Even though we may be done working with these 16 MBA students, we aren’t. Now, we put into motion what they suggested. Already, we are acting on one of the groups ideas for our building that is currently under construction.

Only time will tell to see if their suggestion made a difference, but everything is a learning experience. The students prepared for us so many ideas, that we will be referring to for our future endeavors.

Thank you

Thank you to all the students who helped us in the process, we greatly appreciate each of your recommendations and input.
Leontre C. Campbell, Thao T. Cao, Max Carter, Michael J. Hedeen, Andy Helm, Calvin Y. Jackson, Jamon D. Kimbrough, Nichole R. Mercurio, Abdillahi A. Mohamud, Diem T. Novak, Jay C. O'Neill, Shelby J. Piette, Matthew Pikus, Katherine M. Robey, Maniphone Vannavong, and Nicolas S. Yee

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