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.


“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.

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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.

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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

CATEGORY: Global, Student Life



Our last day with The Women’s Bakery started off a little bit differently than the rest of our week in Rwanda. Instead of waking up and looking out over Kigali, we woke up to the sun rising over the hazy Congo, just barely visible across the beautiful Lake Kivu.

RELATED: Building bakeries and a new business model in Rwanda

Lake kivu

We made our way out to the Western Province the day before, climbing over a mile in altitude and watching the fauna become increasingly mountainous and green. This area of the country sees much more rain, which we learned first-hand in the village of Bumba while visiting one of three TWB bakeries in Rwanda. We experienced a massive downpour that came in quickly as we met with Ernest, a member of the cooperative that owns this particular bakery.

IMG_0555Ernest was one of the many people that we met throughout the week who is involved with The Women’s Bakery at all levels of the value chain. In addition to Ernest, we met with three other field partners, both men and women, who are helping to run their bakeries with their co-ops. We also had the chance to meet with and watch the women themselves in action.

In addition to visiting the bakeries, we were able to meet with partners of TWB. Atikus is a microfinancier who is working to make loans available to the women who go through the training program. And SMGF is a firm that is taking steps to become a hiring partner that will invest in building a bakery in the future. And finally, we spent a lot of time with the TWB team themselves, trying to figure out how to best help them.

IMG_0571As we met with all of these people throughout the week, we regrouped whenever and wherever we could as a team to unpack everything we had been hearing. These ad hoc meetings happened at restaurants, in our hotel, and in the car as we moved around the country. And now our task, as we sat in the lodge overlooking the water, was to bring all of the information together and figure out how to move forward.

We sketched out possible solutions to multiple challenges and debated the merits of each. We did a brainstorming exercise that was used in creating Apple products and addressing the financial crisis to bring out issues we may have missed. And when all was said and done, we were ready to present our preliminary thoughts and plans for the rest of the semester to the TWB team. It had been a long and tiring week, much of it spent in very close quarters, but it was all worth it to see the enthusiasm on the TWB team’s faces as we presented and celebrated over one final dinner.

Guest blogger: Erin Ilic, MBA ’17 

Olin’s Center for Experiential Learning (CEL) is committed to creating innovative learning opportunities that result in meaningful impact in the business and nonprofit communities.




As we stood under a canopy of banana leaves and listened in awe to a Ugandan entrepreneur who built her own plantation from nothing, I wondered why none of our classes ever included a business case study from Africa. Maybe it’s because much of Africa is what some people call a developing market. Well, this semester my Center for Experiential Learning practicum consulting team has the privilege of working with an organization on the front lines of that developing market. And it’s the best “case” I’ve ever had.

This is the first of a two-part report from the CEL Practicum consulting team that traveled to Uganda during spring break.

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Engaging with Ugandan entrepreneur

Our client, Mavuno, uses the principles of business to support farmers by organizing them into locally-led groups, educating them with optimal farming techniques, providing them quality supplies and seeds and allowing them access to regional markets. Mavuno is using business as a tool to end extreme poverty in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and stabilize one of the world’s most war-torn regions.

We took off from St. Louis the day after our last midterms, still groggy from our 4am alarms. We arrived in Entebbe, Uganda after 48 hours of traveling, anxious to start soaking in this foreign business landscape in the country that is the world’s second largest producer of bananas (a crop very similar to plantains). Throughout the next week, we traveled all across southern Uganda learning about all pieces of the banana value chain (while also getting a lesson on the expertise and generosity of the Ugandan people):

  • Andrew and Robert, a scientist and researcher respectively, illuminated R&D that the National Agriculture Research Organization is doing to create the best-yielding banana varieties and techniques in the lab and the field.
  • Gorette, a local farmer, demonstrated how she built a very profitable banana plantation with plenty of resourcefulness and dedication.
  • Multiple traders at the market showed how bananas get from the farmer to the hungry consumers in the capital of Kampala.
  • Ronald, an engineer, explained how farmers could alternatively sell their bananas to a government plant to be transformed into value-added banana flour.
  • Dipesh, a seasoned business man, related why his biscuit (cookie) factory had doubts about the feasibility of producing banana biscuits.
  • Matiya, a young entrepreneur, told us how he built his successful snack business that converts raw plantains to value-added plantain chips.

RELATED: Lessons from banana biz, part 2

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

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Meeting with local children.