Olin’s summer consulting program and its impact on businesses

  • November 6, 2023
  • By WashU Olin Business School
  • 3 minute read

Nicholas Argyres, Vernon W. & Marion K. Piper Professor of Strategy, contributed this article.

The experience someone has within an MBA program goes beyond term time and classroom learning. At Olin Business School, for example, a significant component of the MBA happens over the summer in locations around St. Louis and the wider world. School may be out, but businesses are hard at work. And Olin prides itself on seizing any opportunity to connect students to the working lives of growing ventures.

The Executive MBA Midterm Consulting Project is a tailored experience that provides students with opportunities to assist local businesses or nonprofit organizations. They can witness how these organizations and their teams function, apply what they’ve learned in their courses to a real-world setting and get involved in problems and challenges on the ground.

Scheduled during the program’s summer months, the consulting project gives students the chance to reflect and practice what they’ve learned from the EMBA curriculum.

How does work experience for business students help local businesses?

EMBA students get to enrich their learning with vital, lasting experiences that will help them apply what they’re learning to their careers. But what does EMBA work experience do for those local businesses and nonprofits chosen to take part in the program?

• Leaders have the opportunity to share the load.

While students are getting hands-on experience at a particular business or nonprofit, the leaders of those teams are also benefiting from the collaborative experience.

Leaders from previous summer editions of the consulting project have reported feeling helped, supported and inspired by student input. For example, one local director of The Woman’s Exchange of St. Louis found that the strategic consulting she received from an EMBA student helped her improve her business. Because students contribute valuable input to the organizations they partner with, the project becomes mutually rewarding.

• Business and nonprofits deepen their networks.

The EMBA Midterm Consulting Project is a strategic collaboration between nonprofits and businesses. Olin students connect the dots between strategies and teams. They cross-pollinate with their knowledge, bringing new ideas and solutions to bear in different scenarios. The local businesses involved in the project find that they benefit from the collaborative network.

What’s more, projects are selected based on organizations’ ability to benefit from the knowledge the students gained during the program’s first year. Therefore, businesses know they’re getting highly relevant expertise fresh from an intensive, in-depth learning environment. At the same time, students deepen their understanding of concepts taught in the EMBA curriculum.

During the project, students build even closer bonds with their classmates, cohort members and mentors because they put themselves into new situations and experiment together.

• Startups get a chance to go back to school.

For young and early-stage businesses, the EMBA program offers a chance to take a breath and go back to a learning environment. Life in a startup can be manic and overwhelming; leaders are trying to grow and scale while distilling the things they’ve built so far.

One of the startups that MBA business consulting students worked with in the summer of 2022 was Ethiline, a company that provides 24-hour medical ethics consulting to hospitals. It’s easy to imagine that this startup’s environment is quite stressful. Team members are trying to consult with patients when they’re experiencing a medical ethical emergency and can’t get through to a hospital’s ethical board. So, having students around who can lend fresh perspectives can be quite rejuvenating and supportive at an important time in the business’s growth.

What’s ahead for the EMBA curriculum?

The year 2022 was an exciting and busy year for the EMBA Midterm Consulting Project, with connections made between students and businesses that will grow into the future. The following year was even more jam-packed. Projects lined up for the summer of 2023 included collaborations with Neurotech Venture Studio, an incubator for neurology-based startups, where MBA experiential learning students practiced real-world consulting. Students also worked with Ivy Cafe, a local eatery, and Sora Neuroscience, a startup applying artificial intelligence and cloud-based analytics to brain mapping.

The great thing about the EMBA Midterm Consulting Project is that it expands the learning of the MBA into the real world, offering work experience for business students as well as real, practical and strategic support for local businesses. Olin is excited to bridge the gap between its MBA students and the businesses within its community.

Pictured above: On a sunny day in September 2023, Tina Sappington, Shawn Sanders, April Garret and Elliott Kellner opened umbrellas to learn they would be working together on Team One.

About the Author

Washington University in Saint Louis

WashU Olin Business School

Firmly established at the Gateway to the West, Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis stands as the gateway to something far grander in scale. The education we deliver prepares our students to thoughtfully make difficult decisions—the kind that can change the world.