Tag: Center for Experiential Learning

Maggie Glasser, 2022 CEL Impact Award winner, wrote this for the Olin Blog.

Like any other day as a full-time MBA student, my schedule was filled with classes and schoolwork. By 8 p.m. that night, it felt like my day was just starting. I was fully immersed in the land of Excel and PowerPoint, sifting through data and formatting slides in anticipation of our final Center for Experiential Learning client meeting. Also on my list was preparing for tomorrow’s team meeting, where I faced the difficult task(s) related to maintaining my team’s motivation while respecting the normal stressors of B-School. The days were long, but I enjoyed my after-hour work sessions because it was a time where distractions dwindled and productivity climbed.

Like many practicum consulting engagements with the CEL, I was equipped with a team of three to five graduate and/or undergraduate students to solve a real-world problem that was not outlined in a textbook. We channeled our professional and classroom experiences to create meaningful and lasting value for our corporate client. As the team lead, I was tasked with the additional responsibility of creating sustainable team dynamics. For me, this meant blending personalities, developing candid communication and establishing accountability so that we could effectively align on a common goal and create valuable experiences.

I approached the projects with professional expectations and delivered a “this-experience-is-what-you-make-it” message with my teams from the get-go. The CEL is organized with the goal of providing just that: the structure to support teams through a professional consulting engagement along with the autonomy to craft your own experience. Here’s a three-point guide explaining how I shaped my CEL experiences to drive returns beyond business school:

1. Create a foundation of support and discovery

My first engagement with the CEL was in spring 2021, when I was offered the opportunity to serve as team lead for a family-owned and St. Louis-based HVAC company, Hoffmann Brothers. As a team, we were tasked with developing a systematic approach of analyzing geographic market entry. Our first objective was to create a structure for the project by developing a Statement of Work. Soon after, the chaos commenced. Within two days, we went from a team of six to a team of four and a personal matter placed me on a short leave of absence. It was during this time that the CEL leadership team not only stepped in, but also stepped up. A combination of one faculty advisor, one CEL scholar and the CEL program team helped us navigate through these unexpected distractions alongside demanding client expectations.

In many ways, the project enabled an ecosystem of discovery. As a project team, we merged our diverse experiences and perspectives to unpack a complex business problem in a supportive and risk-tolerant environment that left room for learning through mistake and recovery. As the team lead, I put leadership theories from the classroom into action by embarking on a journey of trial-and-error to uncover who I really wanted to be as a leader. In managing the delicate balance of project management and personalities, I started to construct a sustainable leadership style based on my own discoveries and real-time feedback from others.

After this engagement, I was hooked. I not only made the decision to pursue a career in management consulting but was also offered the unique opportunity to re-engage as the team lead for Hoffmann Brothers the following semester.

2. Build a structure to facilitate and accelerate growth

Equipped with a new problem, a new team and a new skillset, my goal was to surpass the high standards that were established during my first engagement. This time, our project focused on the second pillar of business growth strategy: generating value, driving profit and creating sustainable competitive advantage through service line expansion. Our team was collaborative in nature as we supported and challenged each other to reach the next level. As their leader, I started with a foundation of skills and ideas formed by the first engagement. This allowed me to refine my processes and build a structure that helped the team increase individual efficiencies and unlock their collective potential. Together, these conditions created the simultaneous reality of learning and working, which lead to explosive growth for my team, our client and myself as a leader.

Fall 2021 Hoffmann Brothers CEL Practicum Team. From left: Johnnie Teng, Darwin Bhatt, Maggie Glasser, Yijie Zhang, Brendan Barry, Xin Wang.

The CEL is organized like a management consulting firm in that there are layers of opportunity. Team members, equivalent to staff-level consultants, conduct research and interviews, build models and own individual work stream(s). Team leads, or project managers, structure the project, communicate with the client, manage output and synthesize the team’s work into a cohesive analysis. Lastly, CEL scholars, or senior executives, oversee the entire operation, ensure quality and consistency of outcomes, and nurture client relationships.

3. Polish skills to drive lasting outcomes

After two successful engagements as a team lead, I was asked to join the team of CEL scholars. Accepting this role provided an avenue for me to improve my management skills in new and different ways. In addition to my responsibility to support four new team leads as individual leaders, I also advised their project teams in pursuit of achieving their shared goals. For me, this meant balancing the hands-on approach I adopted as the leader of my own teams with a hands-off approach that left the team leads the room to craft their own experiences. The direct result pushed my boundaries as a leader into an entirely new dimension: I reinforced the art of asking thoughtful questions, shifted from listening with an intent to respond to listening with an intent to understand, and started offering options instead of prescribing methods.

As I reflect on my CEL experiences, I am now able to recognize the compound effect(s) it indelibly had on my growth as a leader. Each day, I had a platform to test a range of skills in small ways, and the effects multiplied. While any single engagement with the CEL delivers value, it was the aggregation of my three experiences that will ultimately drive lasting impact in the next phase of my career as a professional consultant.

Pictured from top left to bottom right: Maggie Glasser (team lead), Claudia Zhang (team member), Kranthi Reddy Puligari (team member), Alex Ignatius (CEL scholar), Chumar Williams (team member).

Effy (Wei) Xu, MSCA ’22; Lucy Reis, MBA ’22; Sharon (Yuxin) Tang, MSCA ’22; Stefan Orduna-Momcilovic, BSBA ’22; Justin Matthews, MBA ’22; and Livi Logan-Wood, MBA/MSW ’23.

This semester, our team has been working with the Ecuadorian Football Federation through the Center for Experiential Learning’s practicum program as the FEF looks to benchmark itself against other football federations in Latin America and beyond to better evaluate its performance.

Our CEL team is comprised of six members: Team lead Livi Logan-Wood, MBA ’23; Justin Matthews, MBA ’23); Lucy Reis, MBA ’22); Sharon Tang, MSBA ’22); Wei Xu, MSBA ’22); and Stefan Orduna-Momcilovic, BSBA ’22.

With administrative offices based in Guayaquil, and sporting operations located in the nation’s capital, Quito, FEF serves as the governing body of football in Ecuador and is responsible for managing the different national teams, including the men’s national team, La Tri. FEF also organizes and regulates all the official men’s and women’s football championships in the country, including the futsal and youth branches.

Livi Logan-Wood, MBA/MSW ’23; Stefan Orduna-Momcilovic, BSBA ’22; Lucy Reis, MBA ’22; Sharon (Yuxin) Tang, MSCA ’22; Effy (Wei) Xu, MSCA ’22; and Justin Matthews, MBA ’22.
Livi Logan-Wood, MBA/MSW ’23; Stefan Orduna-Momcilovic, BSBA ’22; Lucy Reis, MBA ’22; Sharon (Yuxin) Tang, MSCA ’22; Effy (Wei) Xu, MSCA ’22; and Justin Matthews, MBA ’22.

This is a particularly interesting time to work with a sports organization, given how greatly the industry has been affected by COVID-19 and the rise of streaming services as an alternative to watching games in person.

Our team was selected to engage with this client in large part due to our shared love of sports, a passion that connects us to one another regardless of which teams we support. By working together on this project, we have each stepped outside of our comfort zones to apply critical thinking skills to a complex yet rewarding task that is sure to bring valuable insights to FEF and move the mission of the Center for Experiential Learning forward.

Through this project, we had the opportunity to travel to Charlotte, NC, and meet with representatives of FEF, who had traveled with the team in preparation for an international friendly match against Mexico.

We were able to not only share our insights into the project thus far, but we also received valuable feedback from people who are incredibly familiar with the rapidly changing sports industry and who could pose questions that would lead us to obtaining a more comprehensive understanding of the federation’s challenges and opportunities.

Afterward, we attended the match against Mexico and got to enjoy the exhilarating atmosphere game day always brings. It was especially a treat to see Ecuador narrowly win a game filled with many goals on both sides.

As we now settle back in St. Louis, we look forward to putting all our research together and devising an actionable deliverable for FEF to implement. The CEL practicum experience has truly been the highlight of our semester, and the skills we have gained are sure to be beneficial for any career path we pursue.

Pictured at top: Effy (Wei) Xu, MSCA ’22; Lucy Reis, MBA ’22; Sharon (Yuxin) Tang, MSCA ’22; Stefan Orduna-Momcilovic, BSBA ’22; Justin Matthews, MBA ’22; and Livi Logan-Wood, MBA/MSW ’23.

Eitana McClerklin, BSBA ’21, wrote this post for the Olin Blog.

During the spring ’21 semester, I had the opportunity to work on the CELect global team alongside my colleagues Hailey Kleban, BSBA ’22, Albert Kao, BUCS ’22, Nicole Lew, BSBA ’21, and Yiting Wang, JD ’21.

Over the eight-week span of the course, we worked together to support FanCam, a South Africa-based crowd-imaging and data analytics firm that focuses primarily on capturing crowds at sports events.

Our client was looking to expand both into a different industry and into a different country, and COVID-19 presented unique challenges to both of those goals. One of the Olin pillars of excellence states that students will understand the global opportunities and challenges facing businesses, and I was grateful to work on a diverse team of scholars from Olin, McKelvey and the WashU law school who were all willing to combine our different abilities and rise to the occasion.

We conducted research on which industries and cities in America were best suited to support our client, both throughout the remainder of COVID-19 and afterward, and we presented our client with a timeline and steps to expand into these areas.  

The CELect program offers students the perfect ratio of autonomy and assistance needed to improve research, strategical and communication skills. After assessing the needs of the client, we decided on weekly team meetings to conduct research and bi-weekly meetings with the client to deliver this research, receive feedback and redirect our focus.

Aside from the occasional comments we received from the other teams and Steven J. Malter, senior associate dean, special projects and experiential learning, it was up to us to ensure that we were delivering everything the client needed in an efficient way. All our meetings were via Zoom, including the midterm and final presentation, which required more use of nonverbal communication skills and challenged us to get creative with our presentation style and method.  

If working on the CELect global team during COVID-19 taught us anything, it is that experiences are only as rewarding as the amount of work you are willing to put into them. Despite the fact that my teammates and our client were spread across three different continents and time zones, we still made the commitment to put forth our best efforts to ensure that both the team and the client gained something from the experience.

We had an amazing time working with our client, who was more than willing to give us feedback and advice after our final deliverable. The experiences we gained from the program will last us a lifetime, throughout the remainder of our time at WashU and beyond.  

Pictured in photo: Hailey Kleban, team lead, BSBA ’22, Eitana McClerklin, BSBA ’21, Albert Kao, BUCS ’22, Nicole Lew, BSBA ’22, Yiting Wang, JD ’21, Tinus Le Roux, founder and CEO of FanCam, Markus Coetsee , CFO of FanCam. Photo taken during client communication meeting. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic downturn caused internship cancellations, WashU Olin and the Center for Experiential Learning stepped up to provide summer learning opportunities for students while supporting St. Louis-based businesses. Today, we hear from Toby Warticovschi, EMBA ’09, partner at Millstone Capital Advisors, as well as Carin Stutz, CEO of Native Foods, a Millstone portfolio company.

Given the pandemic, what compelled your company to get involved with this program?

Warticovschi: We wanted to provide an opportunity for world-class talent, and to see if these students could assist us in deriving value from the data from one of our portfolio companies that, due to resource constraints, we have not been able to analyze. I have a sophomore in college and a junior in high school. Their internship plans were canceled, too. I brought my daughter to work for one of our portfolio companies for the same reason we’re working with WashU students: It’s a mutual benefit.

Stutz: We all want our companies to be relevant to future generations, so the opportunity to participate and hear the perspective of your students is invaluable.

What is your project about?

Warticovschi: We asked students to our data to see if they could find any key insights to our guest/consumer behavior when it comes to choosing healthy or indulgent menu items; willingness to try new menu items or limited-time offers; and menu pricing.

What was it like working with WashU Olin students?

Stutz: They came prepared and asked insightful questions. For some, it may be the first time communicating directly with an executive team, so some seemed a little hesitant to engage. Having the advisor involved, in our case Zachary Kaplan, helped bridge the newness of the situation.

What advice would you give students on the cusp of graduating at this time in history?

Warticovschi: These are certainly unprecedented times, but my main advice is to remain optimistic.  As this change happens, every business is having challenges—and that also presents new opportunities. Those who ask themselves the question “How can I leverage this opportunity to add or create value?” are the ones who will be best positioned for the future.

Olivia Stevermer, BSBA ’23, wrote this post for the Olin Blog.

Although cryptocurrency recently garnered the attention of millions through a short-lived “to the moon” era, the momentum of blockchain is continuing to skyrocket and shape the future of our transactions. As a young Gen Z adult, a considerable portion of my time goes toward scrolling through various media, taking in more information than I can process. I’ve seen the data and heard the financial analysts report on the rapid growth of blockchain and cryptocurrency, yet there is no amount of information that equates to the knowledge and experience gained from Olin’s Center for Experiential Learning.

CEL gave me the opportunity to work on a team with Abhay Bhandari, BSBA ’22, Yubo Rao, BSBA ’22, and Sharika Singh, BSBA ’23, to determine how international blockchain company Horizen Labs could position itself to enter the gaming industry.

From the first time I opened Zoom to meet my teammates to the last time I closed Zoom after our final presentation, the learning curve was nothing less than steep. As four undergraduate business students with little to no blockchain knowledge, we learned the importance of communicating with experts, and from that we were able to get hands-on experience in one of the most rapidly evolving industries.

The CEL experience provided endless room for creativity and detailing while still following the data and research. Additionally, there was always room to improve and motivation to strive for perfection. Working with a client to produce impact-oriented results provided an understanding of the client-consultant relationship and the importance of seemingly small details. The passion and enthusiasm of the client was especially motivating.

The best part about CEL was the opportunity to explore an unfamiliar industry and experience the startup ecosystem. As second and third year undergraduates, each of my teammates and I are still young; there are numerous career paths we could take. Getting the opportunity to explore the blockchain industry opened our eyes to new opportunities within the sector and encouraged us to explore opportunities in unfamiliar sectors.

Horizen Labs’ startup ecosystem enabled us to think entrepreneurially, and knowing our results would have notable impact pressured us to emphasize listening to the consumer. Experiencing the success of a start-up showed us that there truly are methodological approaches to becoming successful and furthered our entrepreneurial spirits.

Overall, the hands-on experience CEL provided boosted my confidence. The opportunity to work with Horizen Labs was incredibly inspiring. I gained a new awareness of the power and need for innovation along with the belief that I have the power to make a positive difference in the world.