Experiential Learning Grant Helps Gies Develop Business Leaders

A male and a female student work at a table on a project in the Gies experiential learning program.

Gies College of Business has received a $50,000 grant from the Procter & Gamble Fund Higher Education Grant Program, which will be used to enhance the College’s experiential learning programs. Learning by doing takes the curriculum beyond the classroom, allowing students to learn how the world works through actual client-based projects.

The grant will help the College develop a leadership curriculum to train and develop student leaders in experiential learning classes, which at full scale, will include more than 1,100 students per year. The College also plans to build a university and corporate consortium focused on experiential learning. Gies Business will lead the consortium and partner with other universities and corporate affiliates.

“We are so excited to receive this grant,” said Andrew Allen, Director of the Magelli Office of Experiential Learning at Gies Business. “This is one of the largest educational grants that P&G offers, and we’re grateful for their vote of confidence in Gies and in our approach to real-world learning. Learning by doing is built into the Gies DNA, and this grant will help us continue to be a leader in this space.”

Leadership is a key piece of Gies experiential learning, and this grant will enable the College to expand its programs moving forward. Gies will create both a short, intense leadership boot camp for “Team Leaders,” who oversee a team of five students and a 14-week, extended leadership curriculum for “Senior Managers,” who oversee three-to-four “Team Leaders.” Both types of leaders learn concepts like planning, delegating tasks, holding team members accountable, providing feedback, managing a client relationship, and more.

The Procter & Gamble Fund Higher Education Grant Program supports efforts of regionally accredited US colleges and universities in their efforts to prepare students for success in business. Grants are awarded for specific programs that can include improving curriculum, enabling leadership opportunities, creating an innovative learning environment, or strengthening diversity in thought.

Opportunities to learn by doing 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. Projects cover topics such as market analysis, financial modeling, strategy and growth, and data and technology. Undergraduate students conduct projects in Business 301 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 experiences speak for themselves. Of the 426 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.

“Experiential learning at Gies College of Business is a cornerstone to our curriculum and the student experience,” said Allen. “For students, these real-world experiences can be life-changing. Students build self-confidence, self-awareness, resilience, and grit. These experiences spark curiosity and learning, and as a result, Gies students graduate better prepared to succeed in their career and in life.“

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