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.


Last semester, Richard Payton served as a United Way Board Fellow for Sherwood Forest, a year-round youth development organization. The project was part of the Center for Experiential Learning’s United Way Board Fellows Program, which partners students with local agencies supported by the United Way of Greater St. Louis. The students serve as a consultant and a voting member of the organization’s board, providing a unique experience for students interested in social impact.

Richard truly immersed himself in his client’s mission to transform the lives of children in need, and he came away from the experience with a strong sense of applied learning and a better appreciation for youth development in the community. Learn more about his experience as a board fellow, and his advice for students interested in the program:

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

Richard: I’ve had the good fortune to sit on the board of Sherwood Forest, a youth development agency that uses a resident summer camp in the Ozarks and year-round programming to help kids from underserved communities reach their fullest potential. I worked in K-12 education for 8 years before enrolling in Olin’s PMBA program, and I love the outdoors, so Sherwood Forest is a natural fit for me.

Two girls who are a part of the Sherwood Forest community.

How do you hope to provide impact to your client?

Richard: Lots of youth development agencies target kids from underserved communities, but I can’t think of another that is anchored in a resident summer camp experience. It’s easy to call Sherwood Forest a “summer camp,” but there’s a lot more to it. With my Board Fellows project, my aim is to help Sherwood Forest better communicate “the why behind the what” to stakeholders—in other words, to better explain the theory and evidence behind the agency’s work so that parents, families, donors, and funders understand the sophisticated and evidence-based thinking behind the agency’s service model.

How does the CEL Board Fellows experience differ from other classes?

Richard: One of the reasons I applied to WashU’s part-time MBA program was the experiential opportunities at the CEL. The hands-on experience has been incredibly valuable, especially in considering how I can apply concepts that I learned in courses that were focused on critical thinking, communication, and strategy. This experience has been different from other courses because of that experiential element, as well as the opportunity to draw from what I learned in so many different courses.

What has been the highlight of your experience?

Richard: In addition to its amazing staff and board members, I’ve also met many students who “grew up” with Sherwood Forest. Hearing about how much Sherwood Forest impacted their lives and how excited they were for college and their careers was really inspiring. Since nonprofit work can often be intangible, these stories were so compelling.

What advice would you give to students interested in becoming a United Way Board Fellow?

Richard: Know that your assigned project is just one component of the Board Fellows experience—another big piece is learning about the agency and its work, and how nonprofits function. That being said, spend as much time with the agency as possible—board meetings, committee meetings, fundraising events, etc. Make sure you see the agency “in action.” I spent a day at Sherwood’s summer camp in the Ozarks and it really brought the agency’s work to life.




The Madagascar Sustainability Initiative, previously run through University College, is the most recent addition to the Center for Experiential Learning’s portfolio of offerings, in partnership with Missouri Botanical Gardens.

We talked with recent Madagascar alumnus Joseph Park, BSBA ’19, about the course, how it aligned with his personal goals, and his takeaways from the experience.


What is the Madagascar Sustainability Initiative?

It is both an academic and immersive course. Students spend a semester learning about the economic, political, and sustainability issues facing the country. Then, four- to five-person teams develop projects to address the problematic deforestation rate in the country and improve the lives of the people in Madagascar. At the end of the semester, students travel to the Mahabo village to implement projects, live with the native Malagasies, and explore the culture through activities like visiting the free market and going on a lemur walk.

What does the day-to-day work look like in Madagascar?

The trip to Madagascar is three weeks. Two weeks are spent implementing projects in the village of Mahabo, while the other week is spent traveling and sightseeing in Madagascar.

Joseph’s group introduced a method of converting animal droppings into charcoal, creating an alternative to wood for fires and beginning a system of waste management for animal owners. This work is a foundation for larger future projects that have the potential to significantly reduce wood usage in the country.

Projects vary. For example, other groups distributed feminine hygiene products to women and girls or revived a community garden.

The cultural immersion piece is truly what makes this class unique. “Not only do you study the issues facing the country, but you also actually experience it for yourself and have the opportunity to change people’s lives,” Joseph said.

As a business student, Joseph says his goal is to use business for social impact, and the Madagascar class helped him to do so. He described the course as the “perfect opportunity to use the teamwork skills he learned in business classes to create positive change for people living on less than a dollar per day.” Beyond that, his experience taught him how non-profits can help impoverished areas, and he hopes to leverage this understanding to have a larger societal impact in the future.

What would you say to students considering the Madagascar course?

“My advice would be to talk to as many people as you can who have done the program before, and try to understand their experiences as best as you can. That helped me a lot in grasping what exactly the Madagascar environment would be like, and I wish I had done that even more,” Joseph said. “For people on the fence about taking the class, I would say that every penny I spent going on this trip was worth it for me. It’s an experience unlike any other, and is something that is difficult to come by without a program like this. I even got quite a bit of financial assistance from both Student Financial Services and Study Abroad scholarships, so hopefully money isn’t such a large issue.”


We are excited to integrate Madagascar into our offerings at the CEL. The CEL is looking for passionate students who are intrigued to get involved. Please feel free to stop by Simon 100 if you would like to learn more or have any further questions.

Guest Blogger: Allison Halpern, BSBA ’18, CEL Marketing Student Associate




Students involved in the Center for Experiential Learning Practicum have a unique opportunity to consult for large Fortune 500 companies. One such notable partner is Red Bull, which the CEL collaborated with last spring.

The Red Bull consulting team was tasked with leveraging analytics to align consumer and retailer views of business performance. By building a comprehensive understanding of how different demographic and geographic segments intersect and engage across the full spectrum of the business, Red Bull can acquire new customers and identify better metrics for measuring success. Students worked directly with Josh Muncke, Director of Data Science at Red Bull. His previous experience in data analytics at Deloitte and IBM made him a great resource and mentor to the team.

During after the team’s work, the CEL talked directly with Josh about his experience, in order to continue improving as an organization and as student consultants. To begin, we wanted to better understand the unique value and perspective CEL students could provide.

Josh said students showed a fresh way of thinking about our consumer/user groups and found opportunities within them.” Beyond simply recognizing opportunities, the consultants identified metrics for measuring the success of pursuing those opportunities. This team of consultants delivered solutions rather than simply identifying problems.

CEL Red Bull Team working on site in California.

Josh’s feedback also helped us identify areas for growth as consultants: knowledge of more robust analytical tools and increased communication.

An understanding of data analytics tools is becoming increasingly more important in the workplace. While Excel is a great foundation, student consultants should be prepared to utilize more robust, professional-grade analysis tools when working with clients.

Josh also sympathized with the challenges that come from distance. The student team traveled to Santa Monica, California to meet in person with Josh, but increasing the number of video conference check-ins and on-site visits can better ensure alignment between the team and the client. Distance can be difficult, but using technology to our advantage can help decrease this gap.

However, the most important metric for success is: Would the client hire our student consultants again? Josh “definitely” would.

Like any team, our consultants faced challenges, but Josh believes the team’s output will help Red Bull drive more coordinated sales and marketing tactics at a regional level. We are excited to see how we can further our partnership with Red Bull and their incredible brand marketing tactics.

Guest Blogger: Allison Halpern, BSBA ’18, CEL Marketing Student Associate




Last semester, BSBA students Ryan Farhat-Sabet and Betsy Morgan were part of a student team that provided consulting services for Drake’s Place, a family restaurant in Ferguson. The project was part of the Center for Experiential Learning’s Small Business Initiative, which partners area businesses with student teams, who work closely with the client to generate actionable insights and results.

We talked with Ryan and Betsy about their work with Drake’s Place and their experiences in the Small Business Initiative. Check out their insights below:

Q: What interested you in working with Drake’s Place?

Ryan: I was very excited to help a client in the food industry. Growing up in a Middle Eastern household, the dinner table holds a special place in my memories, as it was always a time where the entire family came together and bonded over a nice meal. Drake’s Place does exactly this, treating the greater St. Louis community as a family. Drake’s Place is a community staple, and the combination of the quality food, comforting atmosphere, and people really help to shape that vision.

Betsy: The restaurant was opened only a few months before the unrest in Ferguson, and has become an important part of the local community. Bridgett and Drake, the co-owners of the restaurant, are great to work with and are very inspiring. The growth potential of their restaurant also made it a really fun project.

Q: What has been your experience working with the CEL?

Ryan: Participating in the CEL was such a joy. Both Daniel and Beth are so passionate about their role in guiding students’ learning and creating an impact in the St. Louis community. The student leadership is refreshing, since most classes have such a rigid path to success, and that simply doesn’t exist here. The CEL community has been so supportive of every team’s work by providing constructive feedback along the way, helping to create high caliber results for clients continually each semester.

Betsy: Working with the CEL has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career as a business student. The ability to create tangible, sustainable solutions for an actual client has been invaluable and given me a lot more context for the rest of my business classes. I’ve also gotten the opportunity to develop both my technical and client-facing skills in ways I don’t believe are possible in a traditional classroom. The most rewarding part is getting to deliver effective solutions to our clients at the end of the project and, hopefully, provide them with tools to grow and succeed long after our time on the project has finished.

Q: Can you share a highlight from your time working on this project?

Betsy: A teammate and I were going to Drake’s to conduct a customer survey to find out their preferences and demographics early in the project. Not only were we able to have an amazing meal while we were working, but we got to see Bridgett in action. Bridgett knows the majority of her customers by name, and was constantly greeting people as they walked in. When we approached customers to ask them to fill out a survey, everyone was more than willing because we said we were working on a project to improve Drake’s. That was the day I really recognized how important Drake’s was to the community—and who we would be helping if we could help Drake’s grow.

Q: How has this experience prepared you for the future? 

Ryan: I aspire to work in the consulting field, and this experience has provided me with an actual opportunity to see what this line of work is like. I believe I have relatable experiences that I can draw upon and skills I have developed through the Small Business Initiative to differentiate myself during the internship recruiting process this semester.




The Center for Experiential Learning (CEL) is pleased to highlight some of our longstanding partnerships with nonprofit organizations in the St. Louis community. Student teams tackle all kinds of projects for these organizations, ranging from marketing plans to website design to financial planning. Thanks to the Taylor Community Consulting program, these projects are funded and provided to area agencies free of charge.


Mathews-Dickey Boys’ & Girls’ Club is a youth-serving organization that annually offers direct-service programming to 3,000 children and indirect programming to over 10,000 in athletics, education, arts, healthy living and leadership, and professional development. Throughout these activities, they work to foster a community centered on their 3R values: respect, restraint and responsibility.

The CEL has worked with Mathews-Dickey on three Taylor Community Consulting projects, focused on building a stronger alumni network and further cultivating scholarships, such as the Blue Chip scholarship for values-driven student-athletes.

Bill Fronczak, vice president for institutional development at Mathews-Dickey, says he is continually amazed by WashU students’ commitment and care about their work through the CEL.

This high level of engagement allows students to find solutions and deliver plans that aid Mathews-Dickey’s overall youth development mission. Bill believes his organization has benefited from having multiple student teams over the years, saying he values the high-quality, timely work the student teams deliver. He says each team builds off one another, and their results add up to progress for the organization that keeps growing.

Bill is energized by his 23 years of work with Mathews-Dickey because of the positive impact that the organization has on the youth who participate in its programs. Bill mentions that a WashU student on a recent CEL consulting team had participated in programs with Mathews-Dickey when she was younger—a perfect example of how this organization works to help children grow up and lead successful lives. The goodwill and good deeds have come full circle with this former ‘client’ now lending her expertise to the very same organization through the CEL.

We are excited to build on our momentum with Bill and Mathews-Dickey to reach lofty goals together and collaborate with a spirit of collective impact.


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