Student contributes to arts through research

Megan Catalano

When Master of Business Administration (MBA) student Ian Rye decided on an organization to work with for his organizational management project, he didn’t have to look far.

“I loved the idea of making a contribution to the arts sector where I’ve spent my entire career and I came to the quick realization my very own service organization would make for a wonderful partnership,” says Rye.

Rye is the Director of Artistic Administration at Pacific Opera Victoria, a member organization of OPERA America which is a service organization supporting professional opera companies across North America with education, advocacy, human resources, finance, communications and professional development opportunities.

“The opportunity to partner with OPERA America and for Royal Roads to support that practice is extraordinarily valuable for a mid-career professional like myself,” says Rye. “It’s valuable to step out of the academic realm and apply the learning to a research project in my professional discipline. This was really important to me in choosing the Royal Roads MBA program and was also very important to the outcome of my studies.”

Rye’s project focused on audience research and how OPERA America’s member organizations can implement research in their individual markets. He realized many of the members were conducting audience research infrequently or not at all often due to cost barriers. Rye set out to improve this practice by recommending a collaborative approach with best practices to implement including the development of tools, methodologies and templates for members to conduct their own research while breaking down cost barriers and advancing their research-based decision-making capabilities.

“Ian’s study for OPERA America was deeply illuminating of the need to build the field’s capacity to conduct and analyze audience research,” says OPERA America President and CEO Marc Scorca. “Summaries of his research have been presented to leaders across the arts and funding communities, with more to come.  We are optimistic that it will lead to significant enhancements to the way arts organizations collect audience data and make decisions about programming and public service, more generally. Ian’s project will have lasting and very positive impact on an entire industry.”

The organizational management project is far more than just a final exam or paper for a course says MBA Program Head Frances Jorgensen.

“The student has the opportunity to apply his learning from the entire program in a real world situation where recommendations developed from the research have important and relevant implications for the organizations collaborating with the student,” says Jorgensen. “It’s an amazing experience for the learner to see how they can meaningfully contribute on a topic that is tailored to their interests.”

In May, Rye will present his findings to the entire Opera America membership— including more than 500 opera company staff from 140 opera companies across North America—in conjunction with the 2016 Opera Conference held in Montreal.

“By applying tools and skills from the MBA program to an industry that is near and dear to my heart, and to be able to make a contribution to the not-for-profit arts sector in North America has been extraordinarily satisfying. It has provided an opportunity to improve my own learning while also making a contribution that I hope will have far-reaching implications,” says Rye.

For more information on the Master of Business Administration program, visit the School of Business website.