Author: The CEL

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About The CEL

The Center for Experiential Learning (CEL) provides students with the opportunity to engage in real-world, team-based consulting projects and experiences. Led by distinguished faculty, students are able to deliver actionable results to organizations, develop skills as a life-long learner, and establish themselves as credible business and community leaders.


Junior Madison Stoecker participated in the Center for Experiential Learning (CEL) Small Business Initiative last semester and is excited to share how she applied her in-class learning to drive impact for her client, Always Love and Care. We love to reflect on past success teams have seen—in both their own learning and their client’s growth.

Who is your client and what made you interested in working with them?

Madison: My client last semester was Always Love and Care, an in-home care provider in Ferguson, MO. What made me so passionate about it was the people behind the company: Josh and Lisa Davis. After spending 5 minutes with them, anyone can see the passion and love they have for their community. I love their mission, but I wanted to support the people behind the company as they continue to make an impact.

Can you share a highlight from your time in the Small Business Initiative?

Madison: Before we presented our final solutions, we had a moment with Josh and Lisa where they expressed their gratitude for all their ‘dream team’ had done for them. A new marketing campaign was something they had dreamed about for years, and Josh called it their ‘tipping point.’ Seeing how big of an impact our work had on their lives, and the greater impact that will come from that was worth every single minute of work.

What advice would you give to students interested in participating in the Small Business Initiative?

MS: Prioritize it. This project has a bigger impact than just a final grade. You have the chance to impact, or help someone impact, an entire community. Don’t forget why you are doing it. Also, you are able to apply skills you have learned in other classes to a real-world project.

I would encourage students to create a relationship with their clients. There is so much to learn from them. Most of all, enjoy the experience! It’s an incredible opportunity, so don’t let the stress of deadlines or little things get in the way of doing something amazing!


Check out the CEL’S CampusGroups page to learn how you can get involved in the Spring semester.


Colton Calandrella, BSBA’17, is a CEL rock star. He set a record for the number of Center for Experiential Learning (CEL) projects he participated in over the past four years. He also served as a CEL Student Fellow helping other student teams manage their projects. (Watch video about Colton’s CEL marketing project with a local high school.) This year, he’s working with Teach for America as a math and special education teacher in Chicago before he joins consulting firm Bain & Co. Colton sends advice to undergrads in this blog post about what you can learn by participating in CEL projects.

Graduation will be here before you know it! Here’s some advice for all my younger Olin peers as I begin my first post-college working adventure. There is a simple way to learn about a variety of industries while still in school. Thanks to my engagements with the CEL, I know what it is like to work at a nonprofit, a tech startup, and a family-owned small business. These invaluable experiences equipped me to discern my ideal career path. Specifically, I worked with: a digital health company through the CEL Entrepreneur Consulting Team; an antique store in Ferguson through the Small Business Initiative; and Kirkwood High School, the St. Louis Crisis Nursery, and Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement Program through the Taylor Community Consulting Program.

All three programs allowed me to explore my academic and professional interest of using business as a tool for doing good. I learned that nonprofits are not the route for me while showing me how exciting and challenging a startup can be. Overall, the consulting experience combined with the social impact directly and perfectly prepared me for my work with Teach for America following graduation, and for my return to Bain & Co. in 2019.

Ultimately, the greatest lesson I gained from working on a team with the CEL is the importance of relationships. On one particularly challenging project, I realized that no amount of individual work on my part could salvage the client’s desired outcome—it was that moment when I learned how paramount team buy-in and motivation is. Successfully building and maintaining relationships is what defines a leader.  Any manager can delegate, but only a leader can truly inspire and motivate their members to achieve more.

Relationship building is also the root of my proudest moment with the CEL. When we helped our SBI client Jeniece install her new inventory system, her store had just opened for the first time since being burned down in 2014. The joy on her face mattered because of my personal relationship with her – I knew deep down what this business meant to her, and how our contribution would help her be successful with her life’s work.

I am so grateful to the CEL mentors who invested time in our relationship to help me become a stronger leader. While leadership opportunities abound at Olin, the CEL’s hands-on coaching really helps leaders grow and expand their skills. Working in the trenches with the CEL’s Micah Northcutt, Beth Doores, and Daniel Bentle helped me take my leadership abilities to the next level by focusing on how to empower my team members. Without the relationships cultivated at the CEL, I would not be the leader I am today.

The Center for Experiential Learning has dozens of practicums and projects each semester that give you hands on experience with all kinds of businesses from local startups to multinational corporations to nonprofits in North St. Louis and around the globe. Find out more here.




“I’ve loved combining my marketing and entrepreneurship studies to consult with a startup on creating an innovative marketing solution,” says Allison Halpern, BSBA’18 and member of a CELect team working with St. Louis-based Givable. “The hands-on nature of the CEL has helped me grow and apply my studies in a truly unique way!”

CELect stands for: Center for Experiential Learning (CEL) Entrepreneurial Consulting Team and this is an occasional series of interviews with students participating in the program that pairs consultants with St. Louis startups.

CEL: Who is your client and what made you interested in working with them?

Halpern: I am consulting with a startup at T-REX, called Givable. Givable is a micro-giving platform that makes charitable donations simple with daily, engaging emails. I really love Givable’s mission to make charitable giving more accessible and believe they have an innovative way to do so.

Click here to learn more (this is definitely a shameless plug).

Our consulting project is to create a marketing strategy to attract more users. As someone who values community involvement and utilizing creative problem solving to build awareness, this project fits me perfectly.

givable picture

CEL: How does this class help you with your future aspirations?

Halpern: In the future, I hope to work in a marketing role, assisting and consulting clients strategically. I like the fast-paced and innovative culture that comes with client work. So, working with Givable to create a marketing strategy is really right up my alley. This summer I am interning at Facebook in the Global Marketing Solutions department to help clients optimize their advertising on Facebook platforms. I will be working on a team conducting research to better understand best digital marketing practices for clients. My CELect project involved extensively researching the industry, company, and trends to create a highly implementable plan and I think that experience will help me at Facebook.  This work has provided me with great group experience to speak about in interviews and helps me apply my knowledge from classes and internships in a very real-world way.

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CEL Director Daniel Bentle advising Allison on client proposal

CEL: How does this experience differ from other classes?

Halpern: Well first of all, there are no classes, but there still are deliverables! Everything is on our own time which helps build time management skills and autonomous deadline planning. Second, I love that the class works with a client and provides real-world exposure to consulting projects. My other classes have built a basis for my business knowledge and CELect is letting me apply what I have learned to create impact in the local St. Louis community.

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Weekly Givable Team Meeting (Adam Brock, Allison Halpern, Andrew Mackin, Nirav Patel)

CEL: What advice would you give to students interested in CELect?

Halpern: I think this is a great program if you want to try a hybrid role between starting your own company and consulting others to create business success. If you want a better grasp on the St. Louis startup eco-system and real-world consulting experience, CELect is a great program for you. While working on the project, I would say it is important to keep an open mind to potential solutions and take the time to understand every alternative. Lastly, have fun with it. Consulting projects are a time for you to apply what you know, think outside of the box, and innovate which is a really great experience.

posed team

Team photo after final presentation. (Pictured from left to right – Adam Brock, Andrew Mackin, Elise Hastings, Allison Halpern, Nirav Patel)

Related blog post.




When Populous, one of the premier sports architecture firms in the world, asked students from Olin Business School’s Center for Experiential Learning (CEL), to help them with a cutting edge research project, we knew we would have to bring our A-Game.

Left to Right: Ramin Lalezari, MBA ’18; Paul Girodano, MBA/M.Arch ’17; Hien La, MBA ’18; Surgene Troost, MBA/M.Arch ’18; Chris Pavlow MBA ’17; and Patrick Rishe (Faculty Advisor)

Based in Kansas City, Missouri, Populous has designed close to 2,500 projects over three decades, including high profile stadiums and arenas such as the new Yankee Stadium, London 2012 Olympic Stadium, McLane Stadium at Baylor University and Kyle Field redevelopment at Texas A&M University. This spring, our CEL team is tasked with performing a competitive industry analysis for a new potential design market.

KCPutting our market research into perspective, Populous Senior Principal John Shreve and Associate Meg Rapp organized a series of field trips for our team to visit several of their successful projects in the Kansas City region.

After a team update and lunch at Populous’ office, we departed to the Kansas City Chief’s Training Facility.

IMG_5643Here at the Chief’s Training Facility, we learned all about the various sports and training elements that go into preparing NFL players for a successful season.

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The following afternoon, our team got the chance to see one of Populous’ more recent projects, Children’s Mercy Park. Home to Major League Soccer’s Sporting Kansas City, Children’s Mercy establishes a new benchmark for mid-sized stadiums in the United States, if not the world. Incorporating the latest in sports technology and pushing the envelope in fan connectivity, the stadium was quite a sight to see!

Guest blogger: Paul Girodano, MBA ’17 




This is the second post in a two-part series. Read part 1 here

One thing we witnessed throughout our meetings was how the people of central Africa work tirelessly to carve out a living within a complex market (we literally saw people selling beside the road at 2 a.m.). We also saw how they developed an impressive business sense through experimentation and determination. They taught us a lot.

The sitatunga or marshbuck is a swamp-dwelling antelope found throughout central Africa, centering on the Democratic Republic of the Congo. - Wikipedia

The sitatunga or marshbuck is a swamp-dwelling antelope found throughout central Africa, centering on the Democratic Republic of the Congo. – Wikipedia

Despite the long days of site visits and nightly debriefings, it never felt like work. For one, absorbing the culture and sights of a new country was a thrill for all of us. We had plenty of fun as we crossed the country for different meetings. We couldn’t help but soak up the gorgeous scenery of forested mountains, tea fields, Serenghetti-like plains and even a sign that marked the equator. In fact, we basically had a DIY safari as we saw baboons, antelope, sitatunga, a rhino, and elephants! And after our enlightening work week we relaxed with our clients at a jazz club featuring amazing live music every Friday. But not even that late night could temper the adrenaline on our last morning in Uganda as we crossed off something that should be on everyone’s bucket list: white water rafting the Nile!

When we recover from both the plantains and the rapids and reconvene in St. Louis, our Center for Experiential Learning consulting team will be armed with a better understanding of Mavuno’s operations and the plantain industry which they intend to enter. We can’t begin to convey all the things we learned from our international business crash course in beautiful Uganda and with our amazing clients, but one lesson stands out.

Whether in the halls of WashU or a farm in western Uganda, business can serve as a tool to break down some of the world’s toughest problems and lift entire communities.

We are honored to have the opportunity to use our developing MBA skill sets to contribute to the work Mavuno is doing and lift up people of eastern Congo.

Guest blogger: Cole Donelson, MBA ’18 Team Lead for Mavuno


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