Students in Krannert program get real-world experience

May 2, 2012  


Experiential Learning Institute

Students in the Krannert School of Management Experiential Learning Institute program present results of a project for Sealy Inc. to company executives. The team looked at marketing for a new product. The students are (from left) Jeffrey Marker, Karan Ahuja, Jacob Nielson and Anthony Fisher. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons)
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Eight teams of Purdue University students have just wrapped up consulting projects that have given them real-world experience putting to use what they've learned in classrooms.

The teams have taken part in Krannert School of Management's Experiential Learning Institute (ELI). They have advised companies that are local, from throughout the United States and from overseas that needed outside help with various projects.

"ELI began in the fall of 2009 as a way to offer Krannert MBA students the opportunity to apply what they had learned in the classroom in an active business setting," said Matthew Lynall, a clinical associate professor of management and ELI director.

"We are moving to make ELI accessible to Krannert undergraduates and to students from throughout the university," he said. "As the program has developed, we have undertaken projects in conjunction with other Purdue colleges and schools, including engineering, agriculture, pharmacy, communication and aviation technology.

"We also do projects in Europe where the students spend half the semester at GISMA Business School, our partner school in Germany, and the other half in West Lafayette."

Client companies get the benefit of bright and enthusiastic students solving critical business problems. The companies also are helping develop a new generation of business leaders while identifying potential employees. Participating companies pay expenses incurred by the school and the teams.

Each team has four to five students. They get four credit hours for the full-semester course and spend 10-15 hours a week on the project.

"The companies typically have some affiliation with Purdue, perhaps through alumni connections or recruiting on campus," Lynall said. "We have a growing number of repeat clients. Also, graduates who have done an ELI project often are keen to help develop projects at their new employers. And then some companies hear about the program and approach us out of the blue."

Among past clients have been Southwest Airlines, Caribou Coffee, Allison Transmission, Ingersoll Rand, Sears, Caterpillar and Indiana University Health.

This semester's teams have completed projects for Sara Lee Corp., Downers Grove, Ill.; Sealy Inc., Trinity, N.C.; Sennheiser Electronic GmbH & Co, Hanover, Germany; Harting Technology Group, Espelkamp, Germany; Stratosphere Quality, Fishers, Ind.; Evonik Industries, which acquired Eli Lilly's Lafayette plant; Orchard of Golf, West Lafayette; and Kyk Energy, a company formed by two Purdue undergraduates.

"Beyond the credit hours, ELI students get valuable experience, great references and can sometimes end up with a job offer from their client organization," Lynall said.

Ben Crockett is a case in point. In the fall of 2010, Crockett, a Krannert MBA student, began working with four other students on a project for Dow AgroSciences at its world headquarters in Indianapolis. The team, which included a student from Colombia and a student from China, looked at how the company's forage sales representatives were approaching clients, who are mostly dairy farmers.

Crockett called the experience "fantastic."

"You apply what you've learned and put into practice theories from your classes. It's real business, real problems," he said.

Crockett's team finished up last spring at the same time he completed his MBA. He has been working for Dow AgroSciences since then in productivity and strategy acceleration, utilizing Six Sigma methodology, and recently was promoted into a global supply chain role.

Crockett is from Idaho and earned his bachelor's degree at Brigham Young University in Utah. He chose Purdue for his MBA because of its strong reputation in strategy and supply chain management. He had not planned on staying in Indiana until the ELI project led to the Dow AgroSciences job offer. Now he and his family are happy to be settled in Indianapolis.

Brian Fife, global strategy implementation leader for Dow AgroSciences, is a Purdue graduate who initiated the company's relationship with ELI. He said the work has had three benefits for Dow AgroSciences. The company benefits from good, quality projects and opportunities to evaluate potential talent while strengthening its relationship with Purdue.

"We have a positive and strong collaboration with Dr. Lynall," he said. "That has helped us, for instance, in expanding the project team into the College of Agriculture. The whole partnership is a win/win situation. We get access to knowledge, and the students get real-world work experience, get to know our business and have the opportunity to show us what they can do."

After starting his job, Crockett was assigned to be the Dow AgroSciences liaison with the next Krannert team working on a project. A member of that team, Anthony Fisher, has just been hired, and Fife said Fisher will be the liaison for Dow AgroSciences' next ELI project, which will be submitted in the fall.

The success of the ELI projects with Dow AgroSciences is just the outcome Lynall wants for the program.

"We want to help students turn their expertise into experience and their skills into career success," he said.

More information about ELI, including a video with faculty, students and employers, is available at http://masters.krannert.purdue.edu/krannert-edge/experiential-learning/

Writer: Judith Barra Austin, 765-494-2432, jbaustin@purdue.edu  

Sources: Matthew Lynall, 765 496-6321, mlynall@purdue.edu

                  Ben Crockett, Crockett2@dow.com

                  Brian Fife, BRFife@dow.com

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