Students, Alumni, Faculty Work Together in New Co-Labs

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Due to the impact of COVID-19, many college students are unsure of what the future has in store as many have had their internships rescinded, delayed, or postponed. Disappearing internship opportunities have caused concern among students looking for a job after graduation or trying to gain experiential learning while still in school.

In an effort to continue to build students’ professional growth, the McDonough School of Business created a series of “co-labs” with expert faculty facilitators and corporate alumni partners.

Continuing Education and Career Building Opportunities

“We believe it is valuable to meet students where they are, especially during these uncertain times,” said Ella Washington, professor of practice. “This experience offers a non-traditional setting for students to take part in educational opportunities that engage them in conversations surrounding important societal issues.”

Washington worked alongside corporate partners at PwC to lead the class, Return on Inclusion in Today’s Workforce. The co-lab highlighted the fundamentals surrounding diversity and inclusion leading to positive outcomes for teams and organizations. The course also explored challenges felt by diverse teams and how individuals can manage challenges such as unconscious biases. 

“It was a symbiotic relationship with PwC, which created a safe space to have dialog surrounding diversity, guided with expertise,” said Washington. “We want students to have a greater understanding of how diversity helps an entire organization because having these conversations is not always easy, but necessary to foster a more authentic learning experience.”

Adapting to Changing Digital Environments

Companies and employees have made significant investments in digital technologies in order to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic. Jason Schloetzer, William and Karen Sonneborn Term Associate Professor of Business Administration, explored the complexities of business analytics, textual data, and artificial intelligence (AI) in relation to business operations. 

“Technology skills are rapidly changing, and capturing this change within the traditional classroom context presents a challenge,” said Schloetzer. “Working alongside my co-lab partners helped ensure that students received hands-on training from those who are doing this type of work on a daily basis.”

Schloetzer led Business Analytics, NLP, and Contextual Data with Damon Griggs (MBA’98), CEO of Dovel Technologies, and Rod Fontecilla, senior vice president, chief innovation officer, and chief data scientist at Dovel Technologies. Additionally, Nilanjan Sengupta (MBA’09), who leads Accenture’s AI training, helped Schloetzer lead Intro to AI and Business Operations, which highlighted traditional programming versus AI programming, as well as what AI does for business and government organizations in the real world.

“This experience allowed me to ask questions from my own understanding of these tools that, at times, broadened our discussions with deeper engagement by highlighting specific business applications of the tools across a variety of industries,” said Schloetzer.

The co-lab experience provides an intimate setting comprising around 15-25 students. This is a non-credit, extended learning opportunity for students interested in personal and professional development guided by industry leaders. The program also is a great opportunity for alumni to work alongside faculty to teach or even sponsor a co-lab in the future.