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.


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.




Abigail MacDonald, MBA ’18, contributed this post on behalf of Olin’s Center for Experiential Learning. Lexi Bainnson, BSBA ’21, edited and formatted this CEL blog post.

Back row: Jeff Brown, MBA ’19; Ingrid Claussen, innovation manager, Rosario Board of Trade;
Nick Wosniak, MBA ’19; Gabe Berkland, MBA ’19. Front row: Abigail MacDonald, MSW/MBA ’18;
Ana Galiano, Austral University, Rosario – School of Business Sciences dean; Ankita Bhalla, BSBA ’20.

St. Louis is known as one of the best agricultural technology ecosystems in the world. With great agriculture universities, world-class research centers, interested investors, and thoughtful infrastructure, St. Louis is a perfect example of a successful ecosystem.

This fall, a team of graduate and undergraduate students at Olin Business School took a deeper dive into agtech ecosystems to learn about the importance of those essential institutions, groups, and entities necessary to have a successful ecosystem. We partnered with Austral University in Rosario, Argentina, and the Yield Lab, located both in St. Louis and Buenos Aires, to look at two different agtech ecosystems. As part of this process, we traveled to Buenos Aires and Rosario in early October.

Wheels up

Before leaving for Argentina, the team conducted research and interviews in St. Louis. We were excited to share their findings with the partners at Austral University in Rosario and the Yield Lab upon arriving in Argentina. We had a full schedule once we touched down in Argentina, and all of us were focused on the goal of the trip: to understand the key drivers of the agtech ecosystem in Rosario and to learn about how it has evolved over time.

Rosario is located in the province of Santa Fe, which is in the heart of soy country in Argentina, making it a perfect place for an agtech ecosystem to emerge. St. Louis is also located in a heavily agricultural region. The team spent some time driving between the cities of Rosario, Cordoba, and Santa Fe. Ultimately, this traveling gave us the opportunity to see the countryside of Santa Fe and how it closely resembles the agricultural region around St. Louis.

On our second to last day in Rosario, our team visited Molinos Agro, a large local soy crushing facility in San Lorenzo (just outside of Rosario). We had spent most of the week learning about the agtech ecosystem from the beginning of the value chain with startups creating new farm technology or genetically engineering seeds.

A fuller view

As a result, visiting Molinos Agro was especially helpful in that it gave us a glimpse into the middle-end of the value chain. The soy beans came into this facility as raw materials and left as either soy mill or soy oil. This was a great experience for our team, as it allowed us to see the effects that startup technology can have on an entire industry.

Our week in Argentina was filled with activities. Throughout the visit our team had the opportunity to interview with accelerators, startup founders, large local corporations, government agencies, investors, and the Rosario Board of Trade. These interviews provided great insights into the Rosario agtech ecosystem. Upon returning to St. Louis, the team has been hard at work to learn more about the Rosario ecosystem and to create a gap analysis between the two ecosystems. This gap analysis will provide insight into the necessary pieces of a successful agtech ecosystem.

Based on our experiences thus far, taking on a CEL practicum project is a lot of work, but it provides students with experience in industries in which they may have never considered working and helps students to develop useful skills in consulting, teamwork, and critical thinking.

Pictured above: Abigail MacDonald, MSW/MBA ’18; Gabe Berkland, MBA ’19; Nick Wosniak, MBA ’19; Jeff Brown, MBA ’19; Ankita Bhalla, BSBA ’20.


The Center for Experiential Learning celebrated the accomplishments of 44 participants in the Olin/United Way Board Fellows program on Monday, April 23. The students served 46 agencies across our region.

In addition, the CEL recognized six agencies that celebrated their five-year anniversary with the board fellows program: Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America St. Louis Chapter; JDRF; Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House; The Salvation Army Midland Division; Senior Services Plus, and the Wyman Center.

In the video above, we meet several Olin students as they embarked on their board service at the start of the 2017-2018 academic year. Later, we check in on the reaction to their time as nonprofit board members and we also get a chance to hear from staff members from several of the agencies that participated in the program.

The Olin/United Way Board Fellows program pairs Olin graduate students with United Way of St. Louis-supported nonprofits for a one-year term on the agency’s board. In addition to their board service—as full, voting members—they are responsible for executing a project designed to provide lasting social impact. These projects bring to bear innovative thinking, detailed analysis, and valuable recommendations from talented Olin students through their pro bono service.




This past spring break, members of the Missouri Botanical Garden Practicum team packed their bags and traveled 30 hours to Antananarivo, Madagascar—the capital city, known as “Tana.”

So, what is going on in Madagascar with two Center for Experiential Learning programs there (yes, there is Madagascar Sustainability Initiative, too)? The world’s fourth-largest island has a fascinating history, geography, and climate. Consequently, the country features tremendous biodiversity; in fact, more than 90 percent of all the plant species in Madagascar are found nowhere else in the world.

Therefore, Madagascar is of particular significance to conservationists and botanists. The Missouri Botanical Garden has been present in Madagascar for more than 30 years. They currently manage 13 ecologically unique sites around the country, collecting data and discovering new plant species each year. In short, the botanical garden has partnered with a CEL team of students to consult on improvements to their work in Madagascar while focusing on the future sustainability of the ongoing effort.

Prior to the trip, the team met with several staff members of the Missouri Botanical Garden, learning about the Garden’s history, goals, and efforts. Afterward, the staff gave them a tour of the research facility, with more than 7 million unique plants catalogued and stored in a botanist’s heaven. With this foundation in place, they were ready to venture to Madagascar to learn more.

The team set out on this trip with a mission in mind: To meet with the Missouri Botanical Garden’s staff in Madagascar and to learn about the operations and the conservation work of the organization at the national and local levels. Here is Laini Cassis’, MBA, ‘19, account of the trip on how they reached their goals during each day:

Diving into the First Day

On our first day in Tana, we met with the botanical garden’s staff members at their headquarters. The following day, we embarked on a full day of driving and sightseeing to one of the garden’s 13 conservation sites: Analalava, which is home to 12 plant species that are not found anywhere else on Earth. This protected forest on the east coast of Madagascar is home to lemurs, tree frogs, and bats—all of which we saw on a guided hike.

While at Analalava, we visited the site’s fishponds and tree nursery, and a local rural community called Fokontany Bongabe. While there, farmers brought us to their community garden, which generates additional income for their families. We learned about important crops such as vanilla and cloves.

The employees at Analalava work closely with surrounding communities like this one to create livelihood alternatives to protect the forest. It was incredible to see such community engagement for environmental action

Our stay at Analalava was rustic, but we had a fantastic time. We were lucky to not face a thunderstorm, or worse: a cyclone! Every meal included tropical fruits such as longans, pineapples, lychees, avocados, and coconuts (without straws). In such a rural place, the night sky revealed the dazzling Milky Way. We also went to the Indian Ocean and took a stroll along the beautiful beach in the nearby town of Foulpointe.

After another day of driving, we returned to Tana. The CEL team delved into our observations and reflections, and then presented to the MBG staff in Tana about our work objectives and project expectations.

On our final day in Madagascar, we did some sightseeing around the capital. We walked downtown, took some thrilling taxi rides, visited the highest point of the city, and toured the botanical garden and zoo. It was an eventful and eye-opening week, but it was time to leave Madagascar with another series of long flights.

Our team’s success and safety in Madagascar was largely thanks to the local Missouri Botanical Garden staff, who provided expert advice and guidance every step of the way—from ordering food to bargaining souvenirs, to handling logistical details.

We are thankful for the assistance that enabled us to focus on our assignment without disruption. Now recovered from jet lag, the team looks forward to crafting our final product and delivering impact to the Missouri Botanical Garden.