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.

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.




Jarrad Solomon during the CEL
Jarrad in traditional Japanese attire during his visit with the CEL GMS trip in 2018.

Jarrad in traditional Japanese attire during
his visit with the CEL GMS trip in 2018.

Jarrad Solomon, MBA ’19, wrote this blog post on behalf of the Center for Experiential Learning.

What makes a place unique? Well, experiencing Japan for the first time would perhaps make for a difficult answer; as soon as my classmates and I stepped off the plane in Tokyo, we were fully immersed in the sometimes overwhelming and chaotic sights and sounds: from the food and fashion to the culture and customs.

We began our GMS trip with cultural activities such as tea making, indulging in delectable foods in traditional settings like izakayas and shabu-shabus, and meeting with business leaders at leading global companies, including Bank of Japan and Geikkekan (sake anyone?).

We continued our journey with a stop in Nagoya, where we saw our core operations course come to life at Toyota’s first manufacturing plant. From there, we experienced more of the rich history and traditions that we learned about in the pre-trip course.

On the way to Kyoto, we stayed at a traditional Japanese inn (ryokan) with matted-rooms and hot springs and wore yukatas to dinner while singing karaoke. Once there, we continued to be immersed in the culture, wandering through the hilly, narrow streets lined with shops and food stalls on the way up to the famous temple Kiyomizu and shrine Fushimi Inari-taisha.

So back to the question at hand: What makes a place unique?

The entire gang on the 2018 Global Management Studies trip to Japan in 2018.

The entire gang on the 2018 Global Management Studies trip to Japan in 2018.

Upon our return, classmates back at Olin were eager to hear what we enjoyed most about the trip. A common refrain heard was omotenashi, the Japanese term for its welcoming hospitality. We experienced this hospitality first hand as soon as we stepped off the subway in search for our hotel.

Merely asking a local couple if they could point us in the right direction turned into them escorting us directly to our hotel doorstep. Halfway around the world, my classmates and I realized the answer to the question being posed: It’s the people.

The similarities between omotenashi and the culture at Olin Business School are evident through the wonderful people; they are what make Olin truly unique.

We all have lived and worked in different locales around the globe. However, immersing oneself in a culture with fellow classmates makes for a truly unforgettable experience, one that can’t be replicated without leaving the confines of the classroom.

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in seeing with new eyes.” As our first year of the MBA program is winding down, I’m confident that the personal experiences and growth developed at Olin Business School will allow us to view our upcoming summer internships and beyond with a new perspective.

Pictured above: Jarrad Solomon during the CEL’s Global Management Studies trip to Japan in 2018.




Ben Rosenkranz, MSBA ’18, BSBA ’17, wrote this post on behalf of Olin’s Center for Experiential Learning.

Sports often connect people across regions and nations. Soccer is known as the world’s game and one CEL team got to experience this firsthand by traveling to Quito, Ecuador, to work with Independiente del Valle, an Ecuadorian soccer team competing in the country’s first division.

The CEL practicum student consulting team is helping Independiente capitalize on the momentum it gained following a Cinderella run to the final of the Copa Libertadores tournament in 2016 by building a new stadium, expanding its fan base, and increasing overall revenue. Learning about and getting immersed in the culture of fútbol and food helped them progress on their project.

We found it difficult to fully understand a client and a country simply through Google searches and a few Skype calls. Spending five days in Quito with our client gave us a much better perspective on how our client operates within the greater landscape of Quito.

Given that our project involves real estate—helping evaluate where in the region the team should build a stadium to optimize attendance growth and generate revenue—spending some quality time on the ground in Ecuador and seeing the stadium’s current location was imperative. We did our best to maximize the time we spent in the country. This led to many long days (and not as much sleep as we would have liked) as we jumped from presentations, to work sessions, to games and dinners with the client.

We started our trip with an extended presentation to the marketing team, but drastically refined it until our final meeting discussing our recommendations in front of the ownership group on our final day in Quito. In between, we experienced what it means to be a professional soccer club in Ecuador.

We spent time at the club’s impressive academy—it is said to be the second best in all of South America—we met academy and first-team players, coaches, and executives, and we spoke to anyone we came across about the current state of Ecuador soccer, politics, and culture.

Our faculty advisor, Juan Pablo Espinosa, seemingly knew everyone in the city. His introductions to his friends, family and colleagues, whether directly connected to Independiente or not, all provided us with further context on the opportunities and challenges of economic development in Ecuador.

We also immersed ourselves in Quito’s culture through our meals in local restaurants, long drives through beautiful valleys to the suburb where the team played, and visits to two vastly different soccer stadiums in the area. Through our travels, we developed a fondness for nata, a creamy Ecuadorian condiment, and an obsession with taxo, a fruit that looks like a cross between a banana and pomegranate.

We all improved our Spanish, testing it out when we appeared as guests on the club’s local radio show. We hopped in on a soccer scrimmage at the academy between the coaches and the trainers, and some of us showed them that Americans have a few fútbol skills as well.

In the end, we provided Independiente’s management team with four case studies of MLS teams that faced similar location and financing situations in the United States, providing a roadmap of references and best practices to follow when the final location is determined. The team was impressed with our progress at the halfway point, based on our presentation.

Going forward, we are looking to pivot a bit from the original scope to provide more directed recommendations based on the experience and knowledge we gained in Quito.

We were humbled to have the opportunity to represent the CEL and Olin in Ecuador and cannot wait to get started working on the second leg of our project, building on our current progress as seen by our client lead.

“We have had the opportunity to work in two projects with the CEL,” said Santiago Morales, CEO of Independiete Del Valle. “In both projects, we have received great ideas and valuable recommendations to increase fan engagement.”




Sharon Mazimba, MBA ’19, submitted Yield Lab content; Allison Halpern, BSBA ’18, edited and formatted this CEL blog post.

Many CEL Practicum students have the opportunity to travel internationally to understand business on a global scale. In contrast, The Yield Lab team has a unique experience to work with a local company headquartered in St. Louis that has global impact.

Part of this will include traveling to Dublin to see Yield Lab’s agriculture technology processes in action. The Yield Lab is a family of agricultural technology venture capital funds and accelerators that invest in innovative companies with the potential to sustainably increase food production globally.

“I’m interested in learning more about venture capital and how funds are managed and differ internationally. This is a great opportunity because of The Yield Lab’s international presence. I’m very happy to learn the venture capital structure specifically in Argentina and Ireland.” –Carola De La Torre Cuba

With the support from investors and experienced individuals who nurture startups in the agriculture industry, Yield Lab has recognized tremendous opportunity for growth globally. Since its inception, Yield Lab’s global reach has expanded quickly with additional funds established in Ireland and Argentina. As Yield Lab continues to expand its brand to various regions, an efficient and connected global management structure is vital.

Here’s Where CEL Comes In

The Yield Lab has engaged the Center for Experiential Learning team to address the challenges inherent in the current structure and explore the dynamics of Yield Lab’s expansion plans.

“The content around agricultural technology, venture capital, and how both of these work together is what interests me. I hope to enhance my leadership techniques and also learn from the team—especially with their unique skills and backgrounds.” –Sharon Mazimba

With the support of Washington University in St. Louis, the CEL Practicum team aims to provide The Yield Lab with a recommendation that will facilitate its goal of furthering global reach in agricultural technology venture capital funds and accelerators. The team will focus on developing a scalable structure as new locations join under the Yield Lab umbrella, thus helping the Yield Lab brand grow.

Leading The Yield Lab team is Sharon Mazimba, MBA ’19. Sharon will serve as the project manager and main point of contact between the team and the client. The rest of the team—Carola De La Torre Cuba, MBA ’19; Rohan Kamalia, MBA ’18; Ashiq Cherian, SMP ’18; and Meredith Owen, MBA ’19—will serve as strategists to ground all recommendations in data.

“There is so much I want to learn from The Yield Lab and I’m excited to work with knowledgeable teammates. I believe learning does not only happen in the classroom, but is exemplified with experiential projects. Looking forward to learning more about teammates—their talents and specific interests.” –Rohan Kamalia

This team blends diverse cultural backgrounds stemming from Zambia, Peru, India, and the United States with an array of professional experience from doctoral level academia to strong finance and technology backgrounds. The strategic selection of The Yield Lab team exemplifies the breadth and depth of experience and values that the CEL and Olin Business School bring to our partner consulting companies. Each team member is coming in with his or her own purpose and sense of enthusiasm. Get to know the team a bit more here and learn more about their unique passions to create impact for the client.

“I’m excited to work with students in the MBA program, because I feel they bring a vast array of experience. Looking forward to exploring the details of how funds are managed internally and diving into the deal flow structure.” –Ashiq Cherian

“Traveling to Ireland and being able to travel internationally alongside my team is a huge plus! I am also fascinated by agricultural technology and the startup space. Excited to network in the agricultural technology space and create a valuable and meaningful solution for our client.” –Meredith Owen

Stay tuned to hear how their trip goes and how in-person meetings help students deliver impact in part two.