Student Engagement

Student Story:  Kelsey Martin

by SMU Cox|

SMU Cox alumna Kelsey Martin remembers her interview with Marci Armstrong at the school's Brierley Institute for Customer Engagement as “probably the most inspiring interview I’ve ever done.”

The interview was for an MBA scholarship to attend the Cox School of Business with a customer engagement specialization, and it was an eye-opener for the former PR Account Supervisor. 

As a result of her initial conversations with Armstrong, who is Institute director and Brierley Endowed Professor, Martin became intrigued by the scope and potential impact of customer engagement strategies. "The opportunity to study in the Brierley Institute was a game changer.”

Do something she did. Martin blazed a successful path from MBA candidate to project manager on two extracurricular student projects, and eventually as a graduate of the program she founded her own consulting startup. Along the way, she gained insights into customer engagement that she describes as no less than transformational.

“Customer engagement is a revenue driver. It is critical to business. It deserves a conversation at senior levels.”

Real Data in the Classroom

The Brierley Institute prioritizes experiential learning projects as a key part of the curriculum. In more than one class, students work with real-time customer data from major companies partnering with the institute. Together, teams analyze data, create strategies, formulate recommendations and, finally, present to executives.
And that, says Martin, is a highlight, because MBAs aren’t just delivering the results of their analyses — they’re presenting recommendations that a strategy team could start working on immediately.
The skills the students develop, and the relationships they form, can’t be overestimated. In Martin’s words, “Experiential learning offered us an opportunity to put our classroom knowledge into practice. We gained first-hand experience by leveraging our critical thinking and analytical frameworks on our corporate projects. Plus, we had an opportunity to work on leadership skills.

Custom Projects Beyond the Classroom

During their second year, select MBA students in the Customer Engagement specialization may also work on extracurricular consulting projects outside the classroom. Martin managed two projects where Synchrony Financial, a major consumer financial services company, was the client. 

The projects were significant. With faculty oversight, Martin and her team were operating as a Brierley student consulting firm.
Martin describes both projects as thoroughly worthwhile, because she was able to deploy existing business skills she’d honed in the program while working with her Brierley MBA colleagues to leverage the very latest in customer engagement research. 

Consulting Entrepreneur
Though she had a full-time offer on the table when she graduated, Martin decided to leverage her Cox MBA and customer engagement skills to start her own business, Black Blazer Consulting, a digital & brand marketing firm that partners with companies to better understand their customers’ desires and drive bottom-line results.


These projects were an opportunity to create lasting relationships with real corporate professionals.

Kelsey Martin

MBA '19