With Internships Disrupted, Michigan Ross Launches A Consulting Corps

Michigan’s Ross School of Business

With summer internships getting canceled and shortened by one company after another, the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan has put together a Business Consultant Corps to help its students. The program, with $5,000 stipends funded by the school, will allow students to work directly with executives from sponsoring organizations on projects related to business strategy, digital transformation, marketing, and operations.

“Industry-wide a number of students have had internships affected by the pandemic and I was struck by a recent study where 64% of students having internships were canceled and had no alternative in place,” says Ross School Dean Scott DeRue in an interview with Poets&Quants. “Most of our internships are happening. But they are all virtual and they may be modified by the timing or duration of them. We wanted to mobilize to support students who were affected by the pandemic or wanted an alternative plan.”

A new study by Poets&Quants found that more than a quarter — 28% — of MBAs seeking a summer internship have yet to accept an offer. Of those that have accepted a summer internship offer, more than half have had their internship changed in some way.

DeRue says that about 120 rising second-year MBA students and undergraduate business majors who are rising seniors are expected to participate in the Business Consultant Corps this summer. “Most of our students have shorter internships and so in effect, some students will have two internships this summer,” adds DeRue. “We only know 22 MBA students who have canceled internships.  But many more internships have been modified by the companies. So if it’s two weeks instead of two months now I can complement that shorter internship with the consulting corps. Mike Barger and his team worked around the clock with organizations we work with through MAP (Multidisciplinary Action Projects) globally to create these opportunities.”


Ross Dean Scott DeRue

Barger is the executive director of the Office of Strategy and Academic Innovation at Ross who runs the school’s seven-week-long required MAP program that pairs students with organizations in consulting assignments. “Twenty-eight organizations stepped up to participate, about two-thirds of them were part of our MAP program,” adds Barger. “They were asking us if they could do more and we started to ask them how they were managing the COVID situation. We actually had 40 companies committed to a project and we didn’t have enough students to staff them all.” 

Among the companies involved in the program are Microsoft, Uber, United Healthcare, and Riot Games. The companies span a wide range of industries, including technology, healthcare, and manufacturing. In addition to the typical summer internship work experience, the new program will also include weekly workshops led by Ross faculty, with additional mentoring and professional development support from faculty and alumni.

The initiative comes after Ross had to transition its in-person MAP program, which begins in March and runs seven weeks into April, to a virtual format. “At the time we moved to virtual in March it was the exact point in time that we launch MAP,” explains DeRue. “In 48 hours, we moved everything virtual: 83 projects that were initially intended to be in person with travel around the world were moved online. It was a real team collective effort. The experience was remarkable. The feedback we got from students and our partners has all been really positive and tremendous.”


Barger, in fact, says that despite the initial disappointment among students on the move to virtual projects, “the feedback was some of the best scores we ever have gotten. As we welcomed everyone to the virtual MAP, you could already sense a good bit of disappointment from the students. Very quickly they were able to pivot their mindset and make the best of it. I think that as they look back on the MAP experience, they will say it was spectacularly productive but what a disappointment it will we didn’t get to travel. The participation was great. The feedback was great.”

The Business Consultant Corps will engage students for eight weeks from June 1 until Aug. 1  and is not credit-bearing. While the internships are free to participating companies, Ross plans to fund its $5,000 stipends to students with philanthropic support from alumni and donors. Throughout the program, students will work virtually in project teams for a business or nonprofit. This experience will come at no cost to the participating organizations.

Ross also announced that it will now require full-time MBA students to complete a summer experience in which they apply their business knowledge acquired in the first year of studies to advance their skills and capabilities. Most students will meet this curricular requirement through a summer internship, but it can also be fulfilled by the new Business Consultant Corps program or another compensated or uncompensated practical experience. The experience must be six to 12 weeks in length. 


“The new requirement formalizes our belief at Michigan Ross that students greatly benefit from practical experience between their first and second year,” said Brad Killaly, associate dean of full-time and Global MBA programs at Ross. “By adding the requirement, we are also affirming our commitment to helping our students secure this valuable learning experience.”

DeRue says it is too early to say how impacted full-time job offers have been by the recession. The school is also still considering options for how it will begin the new academic year. “We remain optimistic that students will be on campus with advanced health measures in place,” says DeRue. 

Ross moved its commencement online on May 1. For the Ross graduation, some 4,000 screens tuned in from all over the world to witness the celebration that featured everyone from New England Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady to Shark Tank investor Daymond John. Ross even published a full-color commencement program that was downloadable as a pdf with the names of every graduate.


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