Midpoint and beyond…

The semester and the projects are halfway through – the teams have been busy researching and developing a midpoint presentation to their client contacts!  Based on classroom discussion and talking with the teams, the students have had incredible and unique learning moments in a wide number of areas, including project management and scoping, working as a team, and researching a problem.  The teams are certainly gaining perspectives on real-life business scenarios and learning to dig deeper in ways that can be impactful for their client organization.  The students received valuable feedback on their midpoint presentations, and we are confident that these projects will be a success!  

Many teams have faced challenges with their project scope.  As anyone who has consulting experience can affirm, developing a thorough understanding of the central question/issue with a client is rarely easy – among other things, there are resources, constraints, and human perspectives that are essential to consider in order to provide impactful recommendations.   Students have a limited time to develop that understanding, so we have been encouraging thoughtful engagement with their client contacts.  One team visited a distribution center of their client organization – they gained valuable perspective around the constraints, and developed a new research approach!  We are very lucky to have engaged clients with our corporate partners, who not only enrich the student learning experience but support the students in making their projects successful. 

For the remainder of the semester, students will research the issue further and develop skills and perspectives to support an impactful deliverable.  One team is taking an online programming course to dig deeper!  Our newest challenge will be adjusting to a virtual classroom discussion, adopting the precautionary measures taken by the University concerning COVID-19.  We will continue to support the student process and push them to learn more, work together, and deliver a valuable recommendation to their clients.  We’re excited to see what these teams will bring to their final presentation!

Starting the deep dive…

The projects are in full swing, and students are diving deep into the problems they are working to solve with the corporate partners! 

The students have established and agreed upon the scope of the project with the partners through an engagement agreement.  They began the problem-solving process by developing an issue tree to help them gain a deeper and more organized understanding of the problem at hand and what will be required to determine a solution.  The teams have also built a project plan, based on these issue trees that will help them to map out and track the progress of the project throughout the semester. 

We have been engaging with the various resources available at the University of Illinois to guide the students in their research process.  We have established a faculty mentor program in which each of the student teams is assigned a faculty member of the College of Business to serve as a mentor.  The mentors for this semester include Professors Mehmet Eren AhsenGopesh Anand, and David Guggenheim.  These mentors have expertise related to the project on which the students are working, and will meet with the students periodically throughout the semester to provide guidance.   

The class was also visited by Business Information Services Librarian and Professor Becky Smith, who presented to the class about the databases and research tools available to them through the University Library.  She worked with each of the teams to suggest strategies for their research. 

We are excited to watch and guide the student teams as they progress – these projects are already shaping up to be a success! 

And We are off at the races!

The clients are on board, the students are raring to go, and the race to deliver a solution to real issues that our partners are facing, is on. We kicked off the projects with an all hands on deck dinner meetup at the ihotel on February 6th.

After some welcome remarks, Andrew Allen, the director of the Magelli office of experiential learning at the Gies College of Business, explained the vision for such experiential learning courses and the important role of our corporate partners in helping achieve this vision. Barry Dickerson, the senior director of corporate engagement, who has been instrumental in engaging our partners, presented some thoughts.

Our partners, Caterpillar, Country Financial, Graybar and John Deere, gave short presentations on their projects followed by dinner. Since there is no free lunch :), we had the partners work with their respective teams and dig deeper into the challenges.

Some Asian/Italian fusion fare !

The students have submitted their engagement agreements this week and working towards an issue tree to help break down the challenge into finer chunks to investigate further. Stay tuned for bi-weekly updates on our blog …..