WMU, Kalamazoo College partner to provide immersive, collaborative business experience for students

Contact: Stacey Anderson

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Western Michigan University and Kalamazoo College are embarking on an exciting new partnership that will allow students from both institutions to go outside the classroom to gain powerful experiences in leadership and business strategy by consulting with local companies on their business challenges.

Students learning in the classroom.Managed by Drs. Doug Lepisto and Derrick McIver, co-directors of Western's Center for Principled Leadership and Business Strategy, and Amy MacMillan, L. Lee Stryker Associate Professor of Business Management for Kalamazoo College, the project will ask students to collaborate through an immersive consulting experience at Sleeping Giant Capital’s downtown office.

The partnership taps into the existing leadership and business strategy practicum course, which Lepisto co-teaches at the WMU Haworth College of Business, and integrates elements from the strategic marketing management course that MacMillan co-teaches at Kalamazoo College. Both courses are structured so students work for the entire semester on a business issue for a company, in the same way that a management consulting firm would, exploring all possibilities and conducting research to generate the best solutions for the business.

Now, the two schools have joined forces to take things to an even higher level. There will be a total of six teams, and each team will have two student leaders and a group of student analysts from both schools. At the conclusion of the project, students will be prepared to lead, excel in project-based work and create value for small- and medium-sized businesses.

The client this semester is construction and development firm AVB, which has asked students to look at growth strategies for its future. Students from Western and Kalamazoo College will work on teams in a competitive process throughout the spring 2023 semester, where faculty members will provide feedback and decide which strategies best address AVB’s business question. At the end of the semester, the top teams will present to company leadership with a cash prize of $5,000 to be awarded to the winning team.

Along the way, students will be mentored by executives, who are WMU alumni, from management consulting firms including McKinsey & Company, Bain & Company and others.

From the beginning

The idea for this partnership first formed as Lepisto was watching a WMU football game and gazed across campus to see the Kalamazoo College stadium with a Hornets’ game taking place at the same time. Lepisto, who is a graduate of Kalamazoo College, kept thinking about that parallel and began exploring the ways in which both institutions were similar: a focus on experiential learning, a commitment to the Kalamazoo community and a passion for social good in any industry or career.

Dr. Doug Lepisto

“Kalamazoo is an education city,” Lepisto says. “By connecting WMU, Kalamazoo College, Sleeping Giant Capital and local businesses, our goal is to offer an unrivaled experience that is transformative and drives widespread benefit.”     

Lepisto’s concept for the collaboration soon led him to MacMillan, and after lots of brainstorming together, they created the partnership that is being piloted this semester and likely expanded in the future.

“Experiential education has long been a defining feature of Kalamazoo College,” says MacMillan.  “As educators, we constantly need to innovate these experiences to meet student needs. This unique collaboration with WMU and Sleeping Giant Capital provides real-world experience that builds leaders ready to hit the ground running when they graduate.”  

Students will be participating in a docuseries, providing an insider’s view of the project and what they are learning from the process and each other. Follow the story on Instagram

About Kalamazoo College

Kalamazoo College, founded in 1833, is a nationally recognized residential liberal arts and sciences college located in Kalamazoo. The creator of the K-Plan, Kalamazoo College provides an individualized education that integrates rigorous academics with life-changing experiential learning opportunities. For more information, visit kzoo.edu.

About Western Michigan University

Western Michigan University prepares students from around the globe for a life well lived. In an environment focused on well-being and holistic success, students thrive academically, emotionally and physically and go on to pursue their purpose, prosper in meaningful careers and make an impact on society. Founded in 1903, Western offers nearly 250 academic programs to nearly 18,000 students pursuing degrees through the doctoral level. The University's focus on well-being supports holistic success, empowering students to craft a life of meaning and fulfillment. Nine of 10 Broncos get jobs quickly in their field in jobs they like. Learn more at wmich.edu.

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.