Real-World Experience

Experiential Learning Institute puts students in the field

Each year, teams of Krannert master’s students complete consulting projects through the school’s Experiential Learning Institute (ELI) that give them real-world experience using what they've learned in classrooms.

Thanks to its success, the program is now being expanded.

"ELI began in the fall of 2009 as a way to offer Krannert MBA students the opportunity learn in an active business setting," says Matthew Lynall, 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 says. "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.

Experiential Learning Institute

Students in Krannert’s Experiential Learning Institute program present results of a new product marketing project for Sealy Inc. to company executives. (Photo by Mark Simons)

"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 says. "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."

"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 says.

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

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

Crockett's team finished the project in spring 2011 at the same time he completed his MBA. He has been working for the company since then in productivity and strategy acceleration, utilizing Six Sigma methodology, and recently was promoted into a global supply chain role.

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, also was hired by company and is now serving as liaison for its current ELI project with Krannert.

That’s 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 says.