Tag: experiential learning



As an Olin Business School student, I have been exposed to an exciting curriculum for learning business. A common aspect of classroom learning is the case study, where we learn about the problems a real company faces and ultimately present recommendations to our TAs and professors. Whether reading about potential airport expansion for Southwest Airlines or how Disney should respond to the recent surge in subscriptions to video on-demand services, each case is exciting and makes us think about business from a different perspective.

Yet all of these cases are missing an essential aspect of consulting: interaction with the client. They are interesting to read, but our team could not directly interact with the client and learn even more about the business from personnel.

During one of my business school courses, I was on a team tasked with helping a company improve its client communication outreach. Working directly with a client of the company, we spent a whole semester communicating and developing recommendations. However, instead of a final presentation to the professor, teaching assistants, and fellow classmates, we sat around a table with the actual client and presented our solutions.

These experiences taught me how fulfilling it was to develop client relationships, learn about their business from employees, and then present the recommendations directly back to the client. Seeing the client be genuinely interested in our recommendations, engaged during the presentation, and curious about our ideas allowed me to recognize the value in developing a relationship with the client when providing recommendations. I quickly realized that I wanted to continue interacting with clients and helping them improve their businesses.

As a sophomore, I heard of a company called Bear Studios through the Skandalaris Center for Interdisciplinary Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Bear Studios is a student-founded and run business development firm offering consulting, design, accounting, and technology services to WashU and area businesses. Bear Studios provides services to companies that are small and large, young and old—to improve their models, change their strategies, or create whole new perspectives of their operations.

After my initial meeting with the directors, I was captivated by Bear Studios’ direct involvement with the client and knew this organization would present me with chances to interact with clients and help them develop their businesses.

Throughout the semester, I helped with smaller projects—learning the processes, seeing the operations behind the organization, and sitting in on client meetings. Over the summer, I was given my first major project. The night before my first phone call with the client, I read the executive summary, as I’d done so many times before during my business classes, and prepared questions. I was slightly nervous, but excited to be leading my own project.

Over the course of the next month, with the help of Bear Studios fellows, I communicated with the client and turned an executive summary into a fully-developed presentation. Being able to build a relationship with the client and talk through ideas, refine others, and produce a finished product they were excited about, was incredibly rewarding. Seeing the development of skills and interests I’d picked up in the classroom and applying them directly to my extracurricular involvement excites me for future projects with Bear Studios.

Guest Blogger: Tommy Elzinga, BSBA’19, is majoring in Finance, Film and Media Studies




I was just boarding a plane, about to return to reality after an incredible study-abroad experience in Spain, when I received a message that kept my head high above the clouds passing me by. I was offered an interview at Bear Studios, a student-run strategy and development firm. I had expressed interest in the organization at the end of my freshman year.

The message asked me to prepare for a “case interview,” and I wasn’t the least bit sure of what that entailed. I had heard buzzwords tossed around in my freshman management class: consulting, strategic management, and venture, but I could only match a definition to each term. I quickly realized that the real-world applications of these concepts were exponentially more fascinating than learning their definitions in the classroom.

Bear Studios began in 2014 when Washington University students Peter Delaney (BA ’18 Global Health), Avi Felman (BS ’17 Chemical Engineering), and Will Papper (transferred to Stanford, BS ’18 Symbolic Systems), entered the niche market of start-up consulting and development assistance by leveraging student talent. Through strategy, design, technology development and accounting services, the three student entrepreneurs sought to provide start-ups with reasonably priced resources and assistance from Washington University’s talented pool of undergraduates.

Bear Studios now has two branches, located in St. Louis and Baltimore, with the St. Louis branch led by Delaney and Bill Feng (BSBA ’18 Economics & Strategy). Bear Studios is currently working on over a dozen strategy and development projects in and around the St. Louis area, as well as some projects across the nation.

One of Bear Studio’s most valuable partnerships is with the Skandalaris Center. Through this partnership, Bear Studios has formed relationships with some of its business partners and the companies that are attracted to the Center. Additionally, the Skandalaris Center has worked with Bear Studios to ensure the success of the LEAP Challenge—a tri-annual venture funding challenge in which postdoctoral researchers and innovators seek to commercialize novel research and compete for capital from industry judges. The Skandalaris Center offers LEAP competitors the opportunity to work with Bear Studios fellows to develop their venture, prepare a slide deck, and presentation materials for the LEAP Challenge.

I joined Bear Studios during the summer cycle of the LEAP Challenge. I was provided with materials to begin my case interview—tasked with the challenge of creating a slide deck with content I had gathered from research, and an executive summary that was provided.

As a novice case interviewee, I spent hours researching, even more hours compiling content for the presentation, and even more hours designing the aesthetics of the presentation. I anxiously awaited my first check-in with Feng and Delaney to see if the experience had added more to my understanding of a “case interview” than just a buzzword in my vocabulary.

Feng and Delaney were impressed, and asked if I had any questions. While I explained to them that I knew the executive summary may not have been written by a real person and was merely being used for the case interview, I asked if there was anyone I could talk with who could answer the technical questions I had about some of its content. Feng immediately got me in touch with the summary’s writer who, as it turned out, was indisputably real.

Once I hung up the phone with Feng and Delaney, I realized that this “case interview” was more than an interview—it was a project. I began to question myself and my ability to apply what I had learned in class in the “real world.” All I knew to do was apply the same dedication to the call with the client and to the remainder of my work on the project as I had applied to the initial research. And I enjoyed every moment of it.

I created the final content version of the presentation while working side-by-side with my client, asking frequently for his review and input. I began to understand the Bear Studios process and how consulting works. I sent my slide deck to another Bear Studios fellow who worked on the design of the slides. After functioning as a liaison between my client and the designer, we finalized a slide deck that looked and read beautifully. I flipped through the slides feeling proud of what I had helped create and awestruck by how much I had learned in such a short time.

I received an email a little less than two weeks later, informing me that my client had won the LEAP Challenge and had secured funding for his groundbreaking venture! I smiled ear-to-ear.

And to think it was only a case interview…

Lexi Jackson, BSBA’20, is majoring in Economics & Strategy, Political Science




Photo, above: This student team in the Venture Advising Consulting Course taught by Clifford Holekamp, senior lecturer in entrepreneurship, spent 10 days in Budapest, Hungary immersed in the startup community and consulting for GPS Tuner, a leader in the field of software development for GPS navigation.

Olin creates powerful connections between businesses and our students—because we know the real-world measure of a program is how your academic experience translates into the workplace.

Of course, an internship is a time-honored way to gain experience and to demonstrate aptitude and skills.

But you’ll also find applied-learning opportunities in our classrooms, student clubs, and extracurricular activities—allowing you to explore new career options and gain substantive on-the-job experience, valuable mentors, and networking contacts.

1. The Center for Experiential Learning

Innovative learning. Real-world projects. Outcomes with impact. That’s the Center for Experiential Learning (CEL). The CEL matches highly motivated students at Olin Business School with organizations seeking strategic consulting services.

The CEL has five unique programs dedicated to innovative learning and delivering impact:

» Practicum pairs teams of talented Olin students with companies seeking smart solutions to management challenges.

» The Taylor Community Consulting teams of two to four graduate-level students provide pro bono consulting services to St. Louis nonprofits.

» The Olin/United Way Board Fellows program takes second-year MBA students from the classroom to the nonprofit boardroom to provide a unique lesson in leadership.

» CELect students consult for entrepreneurs at a tech incubator to better understand the challenges of a startup and advise on best-practice business strategies.

» Global Management Studies are student-directed courses that focus on industries, management styles, or emerging markets in a country or region outside the United States.

2. Investment Praxis

Guided by seasoned professionals, students manage $1.5 million of Olin Business School’s endowment.

3. Skandalaris Center for Interdisciplinary Innovation     and Entrepreneurship

Extracurricular entrepreneurship activities, such as business plan competitions, promote corporate innovation and the commercialization of new business ideas. The YouthBridge Social Enterprise and Innovation Competition has awarded over $600,000 in grants and in-kind services and also includes a $5,000 student cash prize.

4. Volunteering

Nonprofit organizations provide a wide variety of experiences to their volunteers. The Community Service Office serves as the major initiative of the Gephardt Institute for Public Service at Washington University, supporting cocurricular service among undergraduate, graduate, and professional students.




The most enlightening lessons I have learned while participating in the Olin/United Way Board Fellows Program with the American Diabetes Association are the opportunity to gain a different perspective on the term “return on investment” and insight into the true meaning of the word “leadership”.

Guest Blogger: Jessica Germanese, MBA’16

As an MBA student, I tend to think of the success of business initiatives in terms of money invested compared to the resulting financial reward. Members of non-profit governing boards typically do make a financial contribution to the organization but the real investments are time and a deep commitment to the mission of the agency. Everyone who serves on the board of the American Diabetes Association is genuinely committed to the mission of the organization, which is to cure diabetes and improve the lives of those who have diabetes. The mission is at the center of all decisions and the “return on the investment” is the enormous impact the agency’s programs have on the health of the community.

The board members of the America Diabetes Association have also taught me what it means to be a leader. Leadership is not about titles, money, status or accomplishments. It is about influencing others to do the right thing and translating a vision into action through motivating others to work toward a common goal. The American Diabetes Association and its board members do this every day through research, education and generating awareness about Diabetes.

The opportunity to serve on a non-profit board is an invaluable opportunity for any MBA student who is committed to impacting the community while developing the leadership skills necessary to be an impactful leader throughout his or her career and I highly recommend the experience!




Students in the CELect Entrepreneurship Course held at the T-REx startup accelerator are sharing their team projects this semester on the Olin Blog. This report is from the team working at Sparo Labs, a company founded by Wash U Class of 2013 grads.

Asthma is a devastating public health issue. Despite a staggering number of asthma patients – estimated at 300 million worldwide and 1 million new cases diagnosed in US every year – asthma (and other related respiratory illnesses) is still a tremendously misunderstood and mismanaged condition affecting quality of life and imposing significant, yet avoidable, economic burdens on the health care system. The healthcare system as a whole isn’t working for asthma patients – clinicians don’t have time to spend with patients to properly educate them, additionally they don’t have effective tools for properly managing patients and making well-informed decisions.

Current solutions for asthma patients to track their symptoms, even in developed Western nations, are inadequate for daily use. Spirometers found in doctor’s office are expensive, and require the services of a trained technician to calibrate them often. Peak flow meters have the advantage of being distributable to patients, but they are unwieldy, unreliable, and not sophisticated. Moreover, neither offers patients a meaningful way to engage with the status of their lung function or to better understand what and how different factors (medications and triggers) affect their asthma.

Without a system to actively track lung capacity changes, patients and doctors experience great difficulty understanding causes, symptoms, and successful remedies, which can vary greatly from individual to individual.

Sparo Labs: Taking flight with Wing

Sparo Labs are located at the T-Rex accelerator in downtown St. Louis. While students at Wash U they won the Olin Cup, Discovery Competition, and an Arch Grants while developing their plans for Sparo Labs.

Sparo Labs are located at the T-Rex accelerator in downtown St. Louis. Watch video of Abby and Andrew demonstrating their mobile-enabled spirometer.

Abigail Cohen and Andrew Brimer, co-founders of Sparo Labs and WashU alumni, are introducing Wing. Wing is an innovative product that allows asthma patients to be pro-active in managing their asthma and not have to rely on their doctor as the single source of information.

Wing combines the strengths of clinical spirometers and peak flow meters, while also discarding their barriers to patient access. It is a simple, no-frills, pocket-sized sensor that connects to a visually appealing cloud-based management and education app on smartphones. This innovative technology allows asthma patients and caretakers (such as parents, nurses, and doctors) to accurately measure lung function at any given time. Asthma patients will have the power to always know “how their asthma is doing” and what preventive measures they can take before the onset of an asthma attack. Furthermore, chosen clinicians can easily access the data, improving dialogue with their patients.

With the product nearing the FDA submission and clearance process, Abigail and Andrew have set their sights on selecting the best channels to spread awareness and excitement in preparation for a beta-launch of Wing.

Where Team CELECT Adds Value

Abigail and Andrew provided the CELect team with in-house research and suggestions to familiarize themselves with the customers they were looking to garner the most support amongst and the different options to implementing a successful pre-launch campaign.

Specifically, the CELect team needs to understand the potential target customers’

1) Individual pain points i.e. parent’s frustration with inability to help their children,

2) Technological ability and comfort level, and

3) Appropriate channels to provide the necessary and applicable information.

The goal now is to find the appropriate channels that will garner the most support (as part of a pre-launch campaign) to demonstrate credible demand and interest that Sparo Labs can use to leverage for further promotion post-FDA approval.

The CELect team looks forward to working closely with Abigail and Andrew over the next two months and is excited to take part in a project that will have real, significant, and long-lasting impact on the asthma community. More broadly, the team feels Wing can serve as an actionable example to help fix the information disconnect that limits chronic diseases patients from actively managing their lives.

CELect – Sparo Team
Kenneth Mao – MBA 2016
Srinivas Medepalli – PMBA 38
Kevin Smith – JD 2016
Christopher Weber – JD 2016

Images: WUSTL Photos


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