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Experiential Learning At Gies Honors Industry Pioneer

Smiling man with white hair and glasses is the late Paul Magelli of Gies College of BusinessGies College of Business recently announced the naming of the Magelli Office of Experiential Learning, which honors longtime faculty member and friend Paul J. Magelli. Learning by doing is in the DNA at Gies Business, and it’s how they help students put their purpose into practice. For 25 years, there was no greater champion of that philosophy than Magelli.

“Paul Magelli stood tall even among the giants of this College’s history, and he left an indelible mark on thousands of students,” said Jeffrey R. Brown, Josef and Margot Lakonishok Professor of Business and Dean of Gies College of Business. “He was a true visionary, who spearheaded some of the incredible experiential learning programs that have become cornerstones of the Gies Business experience.”

For many years, the Office of Experiential Learning has been the vehicle that has delivered the promise of learning by doing to Gies students. Opportunities to gain hands-on experience are ingrained throughout the curriculum at Gies Business, and they include working on projects for Fortune 100 corporations, mid-sized and startup companies, and nonprofit organizations. Undergraduate students conduct projects in Business 301 – the largest experiential learning course in the nation – and through Illinois Business Consulting, the world’s largest professionally-managed, student-run consulting organization. Graduate students in finance, management, technology management, and the MBA program also regularly consult for and analyze businesses.

The results of these efforts by the Magelli Office of Experiential Learning speak for themselves. Of the many students who participated in semester-long client projects over the last two years, 89% say learning by doing improved their Gies experience, and 95% say they have a better story to tell recruiters. Clients clearly see the benefit as well, rating their satisfaction with Gies experiential learning as a 4.8 out of 5. Out of the 125 clients who participated in a project with Gies students, 96% say they would do another project.

“This is the direction higher education is moving and we are at the forefront,” said Andrew Allen, the Director of the Magelli Office of Experiential Learning. “Experiential learning at Gies is not just a one-off course. It’s embedded in the design of our programs. As a result, our employers and alumni tell us that our graduates are better prepared to hit the ground running and add value from day one on the job.”

Magelli devoted much of his life to education. He earned three degrees from the University of Illinois, and then he returned to work at the university in various capacities from 1989 until his death in 2016 at age 85. Magelli served as an assistant dean of the MBA program, assistant dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, associate dean and director of budgets, and visiting professor of economics. His mission at Illinois was clear: to create an environment that ensured engaging, meaningful, hands-on experiences for each and every student.

“Our family is so humbled and pleased that Gies College of Business has chosen to honor Paul in this special way,” said his wife Karolyn. “He devoted so much of his life to the University of Illinois, and he took great joy and pride in mentoring students and preparing them for success in life. The naming of this office in Paul’s honor is the perfect way to ensure his legacy lives on for future generations of students and entrepreneurs.”

Under Magelli’s leadership, the College established the Office for the Study of Business Issues in 1995, which later became Illinois Business Consulting (IBC). In 2004, Magelli was instrumental in establishing what has become the Origin Ventures Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership, another initiative that builds on the College’s commitment to experiential learning through real-world entrepreneurial opportunities.

“Gies Business’ leadership as an early adopter and continued innovator in experiential learning is a direct reflection of Paul’s influence,” said Brown. “He knew that students could discover their purpose when they gain real-world experience guided by the wisdom and expertise of business leaders, and he worked enthusiastically and tirelessly to provide that experience for as many students as possible.”

For thousands of alumni, faculty, and industry professionals, Paul Magelli’s name is synonymous with experiential learning and its long and proud history at Gies College of Business. The Magelli Office of Experiential Learning is a fitting tribute to this outstanding educator and mentor, and it is also a reflection of the College’s continued commitment to innovation in learning by doing—a commitment that began with Paul Magelli.

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