University of Southern California

Class Takes Real-World Approach with Getty Villa Project
Marshall Students Help High Profile Museum Create Better Visitor Experience
July 1, 2011 • by News at Marshall

Murat Bayiz, assistant professor of clinical operations management at Marshall, wanted to challenge his students' traditional notions about the field and give them some hands-on experience. To do so, he made a real-world project the centerpiece of the undergraduate operations consulting class he taught for the first time this spring.

"Students have the impression that all the operational problems come from manufacturing or production. I wanted them to see that we have a lot of operational problems and challenges in other industries," said Bayiz. He contacted Bob Combs, a former student who is now director of security for the J. Paul Getty Trust and its programs, including the Getty Center and Getty Villa, to partner on the semester-long project.

Students were asked to focus on several issues at the Getty Villa, a museum dedicated to ancient Greek, Roman and Etruscan collections. The challenges included improving traffic, and optimizing attendance while maintaining an excellent visitor experience. Though admission to the Villa is free, guests must have reserved timed entrance tickets and check in before parking on-site at the museum. Located off the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, the museum wanted to determine an optimum allocation of tickets that would prevent traffic overflows onto the historic roadway, which is not allowed under a Conditional Use Permit by which the museum operates. Students had to address the traffic issue and calculate the maximum number of tickets that could be given out per hour, while maintaining a positive visitor experience.

After laying the groundwork with lessons on consulting skills and practical tools like Excel, Bayiz had the class divide up into four teams of four to six members and sent them on their way – with one important restriction. Each team would not be privy to what other teams were doing until final presentation day, which took place at the Getty Center.

"I wanted it that way so they would not be biased by each others' work. I wanted them to think independently and come up with their own solutions," said Bayiz. "The students had a lot of fantastic ideas, including paying on the way out or moving the kiosk to different locations in the museum, to different payment options. The whole idea was to have students work on a consulting project and have hands-on experience and they did a great job. The client was very happy."

Wendy Zeng ‘11, who has held several internships while at Marshall and will be working at Altria in sales and distribution, found the professor’s approach liberating.

"Professor Bayiz was really great about being there for support if we needed help, but, for the most part, a lot of it was open to interpretation. You approached it much like you would approach a consulting project. And our client interaction with the Getty was very professional, just like you would interact with a client in a real consulting firm," she said.

Zeng and her four other teammates took turns on-location and came up with inventive ways to gather needed information.

Though the project was open-ended, students received feedback from both Bayiz and Getty officials through progress reports they had to submit during the semester. They also ran through their final presentations with Professor Bayiz before doing so with Getty officials.

Tiffany Hamlin, ’11, a teammate of Zeng’s, the project created a powerful sense of accomplishment.

"It’s your baby. It’s your pride and joy. You want it to be the best. And at the end of the semester, it’s not about ‘do I have an ‘A,’ it’s about this project that you’ve been working on all semester long and you really feel like this appreciation and self-recognition and really proud of yourself for everything you’ve done," said Hamlin. "It really makes you be a professional and take responsibility."

About the USC Marshall School of Business
Consistently ranked among the nation's premier schools, USC Marshall is internationally recognized for its emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation, social responsibility and path-breaking research. Located in the heart of Los Angeles, one of the world's leading business centers and the U.S. gateway to the Pacific Rim, Marshall offers its 5,700-plus undergraduate and graduate students a unique world view and impressive global experiential opportunities. With an alumni community spanning 123 countries, USC Marshall students join a worldwide community of thought leaders who are redefining the way business works.