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 around the globe. Guided by distinguished faculty, students are able to deliver actionable results to organizations, develop skills as a life-long learners, and establish themselves as credible business and community leaders.


Sneha Varma, 2020 MBA; Amy VanEssendelft, CEL Staff; Jasmine Zhu, 2019 MSCA; Ram Pappu, 2020 MBA; Kate Baeg, 2020 BSBA; Trip Smith, 2019 MBA CEL Fellow; Oliver Culver, 2019 MBA

Ramakrishna Pappu, MBA ’20, a member of the Alyeska CEL project team in Daegu, South Korea, wrote this for the Olin Blog.

We were a diverse group of individuals from WashU Olin across the MBA, SMP and undergraduate programs, working together on the AGM-Alyeska project over the spring 2019 semester. The project was in the cosmetic skincare industry with two very passionate clients.

Our primary client was Alaska Glacial Mud (AGM), a producer of authentic pure Alaskan mud products and accessories. Our second client was Alyeska, a Korean company, which creates and markets new skincare formulations in Asia. AGM and Alyeska have been business partners for a few years, AGM using formulations created by Alyeska in its products.

The Center for Experiential Learning selects individuals and creates a team based on the broad experience, skills and interests of the students. A few of us in the team have prior experience working in the cosmetics industry that we could leverage to meet our client’s objectives. Personally, I was interested in utilizing my past experience and skills to help the client develop a market entry strategy, especially for the high-end skincare market—a section of the market that I wanted to get more exposure to.

Booming skincare market

The skincare market is booming, and South Korea is at the center of it, with high-quality products known around the world. Alyeska is located in Daegu, South Korea, and works closely with the local university and the government for R&D.

Alyeska has access to some world-class infrastructure, expertise and resources. It has teamed up with several other local companies to form a cooperative called Clewnco, a brand under which it sells its products in physical stores. Clewnco and Alyeska are looking to enter the US market and with the support of AGM, approached the CEL to help it figure out the best way to do so.

Specifically, our team’s objectives for the project included identifying how a new product can edge its way into the premium segment of the skincare market in the United States. What would be the best method of entry in this market? With increasing attention on Korean cosmetics in the world and strong competition within this segment, is it the right time to enter this market? What is the willingness to pay for the customers in this segment and what kind of pricing structure would help make Alyeska successful?

These are some of the questions that the CEL team helped address for the client during the project.

Value of overseas site visit

The site visit to Daegu gave the team an up-close look at the company’s laboratories, research and development facilities, as well as the manufacturing set up where the skincare products are made. Meetings with industry experts in skincare formulations and learning from their experiences and perspectives helped us gain deeper appreciation for our client’s work.

Interacting with the factory managers and staff showed us what it took to get raw materials transformed into finished products ready to be sold. We learned how business is done in Korea—often through informal networks that quickly shape into real business partnerships. The visit drove an understanding of the role disruptive innovation plays in the business landscape in Korea and we got a sense of the intrinsic motivations behind some business decisions made in the industry.

The last part of our visit included seeing the sights around the city of Daegu as well as the capital city of Seoul. The trip was a fine balance between working in a consulting team for a client and being a tourist to see the sights at the end of an action-packed work week.

The CEL program is a great way for students to apply what they have learned in the classroom to real business scenarios. Working with an external client in the “real world” on a project that helps build and implement a company’s strategy in a high-pressure situation is a formative experience.

The CEL does a great job of exposing the teams to real life situations and complexities in the workplace, while under the aegis and support structure provided in a university setting. The experience we gained working with our clients and a new team has been very enriching and helps develop our leadership qualities that we can take into the future.

Pictured above: Sneha Varma, MBA ’20; Amy VanEssendelft, CEL staff; Jasmine Zhu, MSCA ’19; Ram Pappu, MBA ’20; Kate Baeg, BSBA ’20; Trip Smith, MBA ’19, CEL fellow; Oliver Culver, MBA ’19.




Zandy Schorsch, MBA ’19, contributed this blog post on behalf of Olin’s Center for Experiential Learning.

Oscar Wilde once said that rugby is a good occasion for keeping 30 bullies far from the center of a city. This semester, students from the undergraduate and graduate levels of Washington University Olin Business School have been working with the Center for Experiential Learning to perform the opposite—assess the viability of bringing a professional rugby team to the city of St. Louis.

Rugby is one of the fastest growing sports in the United States, and Major League Rugby was founded last year to provide fans with professional-level rugby competition here in the states. The league kicked off its inaugural season with seven original teams. With nationally televised games on CBS and sold out tickets in many of the cities, there is a growing sense of optimism as MLR prepares for its second season.

The league has aggressive plans for expansion, with teams in New York and Toronto joining for the 2019 season and Atlanta, D.C., and Boston joining in 2020. St. Louis has emerged as one of the potential cities for an MLR expansion team, and the CEL was hired by a local entrepreneur to determine whether such a venture is feasible.

The CEL’s client, a husband and wife duo with a lifelong passion for rugby, believe the loss of the city’s football franchise has created an opening for rugby. Through dozens of interviews with rugby players, coaches, executives, and MLR league officials, the CEL team developed a strong understanding of how a rugby team in St. Louis would operate and the number of fans it would be able to attract.

Although St. Louis has always been a baseball town, there are hundreds of registered rugby players in the local area across all levels of the sport, as well as several nationally recognized rugby programs.

While the CEL team was able to develop a demand forecast for rugby in St. Louis, only so much can be learned about stadium financing and team operations from phone interviews and emails. As a result, the client decided to bring the CEL team to Glendale, Colorado, to meet with the Raptors, the MLR regular season champions, to learn more about the business side of rugby operations.

Learning about rugby operations from the Raptors.

During a full-day of meetings with the Raptors, the CEL team learned about stadium financing, team and stadium operating costs, revenue drivers, marketing and sales strategies, and unexpected expenses associated with managing a professional sports team.

The CEL team also got to learn the fundamentals of rugby from some of the professional players, such as tackling techniques and field goal mechanics.

While the CEL team requires more practice if they hope to play professionally, the data the team was able to collect from the Raptors proved invaluable for their analysis. The client capped off the trip with dinner at a local pub, a great opportunity for the student team to connect with their client informally.

Upon returning to St. Louis, the CEL team took the lessons learned from the Raptors to develop a financial model the client could use to make an informed decision about bringing professional rugby to St. Louis. The team developed an intuitive financial model that accounted for attendance numbers, concession sales, merchandise sales, stadium costs, advertising, and a host of other variables posed several challenges.

Effectively communicating the outputs from the financial model, as well as highlighting the key assumptions and inputs that produce those outputs, was also critically important.

By building a strong relationship with the client throughout the semester, and leveraging the abundant resources of the CEL and Washington University, the CEL team was able to provide a final deliverable that gave the client a holistic view of everything that goes into managing a professional sports team and stadium.

The financial analysis demonstrated that a team in St. Louis is feasible, so be on the lookout for a local MLR team in near future.

Overall, the CEL is a unique opportunity for students to work on real-world projects that have a direct impact on their community. Bringing a professional sports team to St. Louis is the type of project that major consulting firms and investment banks would be envious of, and for the clients who hire the CEL, they get to receive professional-level services from the very students who, upon graduation, will be joining those types of companies.




Mimi Wang, MBA ’19, contributed this post on behalf of Olin’s Center for Experiential Learning. Lexi Bainnson, BSBA ’21, edited and formatted this CEL blog post.

In October, a student team representing the Center for Experiential Learning visited Quito, Ecuador. Quito is a city built on mountains and in the valleys with breathtaking views in all directions, no matter your location.

The angel of Quito is a famous statue located on top of one of the tallest mountains and is visible from everywhere in the city.

Left: The angel of Quito sits atop a hill and is visible anywhere in the city. Right: The view from the angel’s vantage point.

There is so much to do in Quito that our sightseeing day was jam-packed. The center of the world, located at latitude 0º0’0”, features a variety of exciting sites. We visited two main attractions during our time in Quito.

Team members Stephanie Feit, MBA ’19),
Brant Tagalo, BSBA ’20, and Mimi Wang, MBA ’19,
line up for a demonstration of some of the
increased gravity effects at the center of the earth.

The first site was built around what was originally considered the center of the world, and includes a large park with museums, restaurants, and monuments. The second was built at the true center of the earth, calculated using a modern, military-grade GPS. At this site, our team took a tour and learned about ancient indigenous cultures and some of the natural phenomena that happen along the equator line.

After a day of sightseeing, we stopped at a chocolate shop and cafe, where we had some tea and coffee. Cacao beans are grown in and around Ecuador, so it has the best chocolate and some of the best coffee in the world.

The view from the coffee shop
is quaint, and the drinks are delicious.

We also dined at Quitu, a restaurant that puts modern experimental cooking twists on classic Ecuadorian food. Quitu is unique in that it sources all of its food locally and organically. Interesting menu items include broccoli rabe cooked in cucumber and rabbit soup, fresh fish in zucchini sauce, deep fried guinea pig (called cuye), and pork tongue in a soy-like sauce. All of the dishes were served on distinctive plates made of driftwood, cross-sections of tree stumps, or rocks. Our meal there was a lively occasion appreciating authentic Ecuadorian cuisine.

We loved having the opportunity to explore and experience Ecuadorian culture outside of our time spent with our client in October. Now that we are home again, we look forward to composing our final deliverables and helping our client going forward.




Brant Tagalo, BSBA ’20, contributed this post on behalf of Olin’s Center for Experiential Learning. Lexi Bainnson, BSBA ’21, edited and formatted this CEL blog post.

In October, the Center for Experiential Learning sent a team of student-consultants to Quito, Ecuador, to advise the innovation and entrepreneurship department of ConQuito: The Agency of Economic Promotion.

The startup or incubation ecosystem is a complex and unpredictable environment that fuels technological progress, the ecosystem in which the seeds of the most innovative and revolutionary technologies are planted and cultivated. The opportunity to step into and examine this environment has been—so far—the highlight of my academic career.

Entering the landmark historical building in which ConQuito operates, the team was welcomed by ConQuito members to their impressive co-working space. Designed with the vision of merging the past with the future—the historical significance of the building and ConQuito’s efforts to engender a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship—the co-working space symbolizes ConQuito’s goal to cultivate the seeds of innovation to pave the way to economical improvement in Ecuador. Our client ConQuito is a pioneer of promoting innovative and entrepreneurial activities that stimulate the economy.

Working with a team of welcoming, collaborative, and dedicated professionals has served to increase the team’s motivation and interest in this project. The team’s objective is to provide the innovation and entrepreneurship department of ConQuito with a recommendation that optimizes the strategy for fostering a culture of innovation, ingenuity and progress.

The CEL practicum is the culmination and application of all the business concepts I have learned in Olin Business School. The experiential value of a real-world consulting project has shaped my future career aspirations. It has given me the assurance that I want to pursue a career in consulting.

Pictured above: Enrique Crespo, director of innovation, ConQuito (the CEL client); David Paquette, MBA ’19; Stephanie Feit, MBA ’19; Brant Tagalo, BSBA ’20; Mimi Wang, MBA ’19; Laini Cassis, MBA ’19.




Samuel Roth, MBA ’19, wrote this on behalf of his team in Olin’s Center for Experiential practicum program.

The MilliporeSigma team received more than 50 disparate data sets with tens of thousands of rows of data—each ranging from customer interaction logs to water quality measurements to technician feedback logs. The team has been asked to take the data and answer a seemingly simple question: For lab water purification system-customers, when are service events likely to occur and what are the primary indicators of an imminent service event?

From a business school mentality, the team, consisting of four master of customer analytics students and two MBA students, initially wanted to organize the data to create a model that would maximize economic benefit for MilliporeSigma. However, the client noted that the team needed to approach the problem without bias toward organizational objectives.

Team members rolled up their sleeves and began analyzing the data, only to find discrepancies in records that defied human understanding. How could the data indicate a technician made a repair on a machine that had never been installed? This realization led the team to realize every piece of data included in the model had to be rigorously scrutinized for its reflection of the real world.

Painstakingly, the team cleaned, examined, and again cleaned the data to avoid the phenomenon of “GiGo”—garbage in, garbage out. The client pivoted its expectations upon recognizing how much work was required just to prepare the data. The new measure of success: Simply creating a file that provided clean enough input for machine learning models to analyze.

Exceeding expectations, the team produced a file that is machine-learning ready with four weeks remaining to derive insights from statistical learning models.

The team has endured major pivots at nearly every turn in the project and has come to recognize that this is how business is done. MilliporeSigma and the CEL have provided the team an amazing opportunity to not only apply ivory tower modeling techniques taught in academia, but also to experience first-hand how challenging it is for organizations to patch their data together and provide insight into the real world.

Pictured above: Nithin Tiruveedhi, controller, BRM and diagnostics, MilliporeSigma; Robert Woody, MSCA ’18; Claire Xu Yiwen, MSCA ’18; Samuel M. Roth, MBA ’19; Seungho Oh. MBA ’19; Leah Zhang Chuyi, MSCA ’18; and Kunnan Liu, MSCA ’18.