Frankie Hong, MSFQ ’20, is a Center for Experiential Learning practicum fellow—and the first from Olin’s Specialized Masters Program.
I was placed on the team for the practicum project of Midwest BankCentre in the spring 2020 semester, and this project is still one of my highlights at Olin. It was the first time that I interacted with a real-life client to such an extent.
I still remember being nervous and anxious, trying to play it cool. But I could not keep my legs from shaking at the first in-person client meeting in January 2020 in the Pagedale community.
Stepping into the unknown can be intimidating, but this experience excited me even more as we started to see the bigger picture. We held multiple stakeholder meetings with the clients and the faculty advisors to tell the story using the best models we could find. The clients were supportive and able to provide resources and feedback. They became my mentors when I landed in this part of the finance world.
It was a fortunate coincidence that my summer internship was at a St. Louis FinTech company, where our clients were community banks across the US. The knowledge I gained from the spring practicum was valuable throughout my summer internship. Working alongside several Olin students, we managed to create a valuation tool for community banks in only eight weeks. This experience reinforced the importance of experiential learning and implementing the values-based and data-driven approaches I learned at Olin.
Continuing his CEL journey
These experiences helped me make up my mind to apply for a practicum fellow role to continue my CEL journey. It did not occur to me then that I would become the first fellow for practicum from the SMP population.
As a practicum fellow, I had the honor of working with the Purina team for the fall 2020 semester. Each team member brought passion and expertise to the work and strived to deliver a successful final product to the client. The team also gave me full support on my fellowship project, which is to look at how to improve the SMP students’ recruitment process and facilitate collaboration among different communities.
Ability and diversity
Through interviews and surveys, I learned more about this cohort’s ability and diversity and was amazed by the talents people can bring to the table. The awareness of CEL experiential programs is relatively high among the SMPs. Some even indicated that these programs are one of the biggest reasons they chose to attend Olin, since successfully managing the programs reflects the business school’s power to offer quality service and professional guidance to students. For students coming straight to Olin after finishing their undergraduate study, the variety of experiential programs provide a valuable way to gain their first consulting experience working with real clients and apply skills learned in the classroom to practice.
When asked about their experience, many SMPs participants in the fall semester told me they were surprised at how the team collaborated efficiently in the virtual setup. Some of them took up the role of “technical team lead” when the project required unique skills such as website design and data analytics.
Even when entering an industry that they were not familiar with, students believe a fantastic team lead, an engaged faculty advisor and a responsive client will all contribute to achieving a satisfying result.
I encourage all SMP students to participate in experiential learnings programs where theory meets practice. Do not hesitate to offer your fresh perspectives and even plan on showing your leadership skills in a team.
We have come a long way and will continue navigating through the uncertainties ahead of us. As I continue to work as a CEL practicum fellow in the spring semester, I look forward to the journey ahead and am more than happy to connect with Olin’s talents.