AMES, Iowa – An initiative to expand experiential learning for Iowa State University students will also provide businesses with access to market research and consulting services. ISU’s College of Business created CyBIZ Lab as a way for students to gain real work experience.
College of Business faculty members have worked for years with private business and industry as well as nonprofits to provide students with hands-on learning in the classroom. The new lab will generate more opportunities for students, of all majors, to work with businesses both in and out of the classroom. It will also streamline the process for organizations wanting to partner with faculty and students on research projects.
“We want to enhance the student experience and one way to do that is through this new experiential learning initiative,” said David Spalding, the Raisbeck Endowed Dean of the College of Business. “Giving students the opportunity to work directly with businesses will further develop the skills they’re learning in the classroom and give them a competitive edge in their job search and after graduation.”
Students will have the opportunity to work on live case studies, to be part of a team working to solve problems or conduct research for businesses as well as support existing or launch new entrepreneurial ideas. Depending on the nature of the project, companies will pay a fee to sponsor the students, with the support of faculty, for the work.
Judi Eyles, interim director of CyBIZ Lab, works directly with businesses interested in the services CyBIZ Lab has to offer. She hired four graduate students this past fall to conduct research for WebFilings and the Iowa Arboretum. The graduate students will lead a team of undergraduates this spring to work on four new projects with organizations such as C.H. Robinson and Prairie Rivers Iowa.
“Students bring a different perspective that the companies value. This experience allows students to demonstrate their skills and abilities to companies that may very well be potential employers,” Eyles said. “It also gives faculty an opportunity to engage with businesses and they can bring that experience to the classroom and their research.”
Students value real experience
Mohit Sharma spent four years in the business world before returning to school to earn his MBA at Iowa State. Now working for CyBIZ Lab he’s building on his previous work experience in ways that cannot be duplicated in the classroom.
“When you’re working with a corporation it’s entirely different than a college project,” Sharma said. “You realize this is a real problem for business. We’re learning there are limitations, there are guidelines and you cannot control everything.”
Sharma and Alex Andrade, a graduate student who also works in the lab, had to troubleshoot and find solutions to the limitations they faced this past fall while conducting surveys and compiling data about employee development trends for clients. The experience of working through those issues and then presenting the research to company officials gave Andrade confidence and a feeling he was contributing to the client’s organization.
“The biggest thing I get from this experience comes from the people I’m meeting. Hopefully, they’ll remember the work that I’m doing and that will help me get a job one day,” Andrade said. “It’s all about making those connections.”
Businesses benefit too
C.H. Robinson, a third-party logistics provider based in Minnesota, is an initial founding sponsor for CyBIZ Lab. The company values the expertise faculty and students provide for research and it knows working with students is a good recruiting tool. ISU students will be part of a project this spring to analyze how C.H. Robinson can differentiate between price and the value of the service it provides for its customers.
Mark Walker, a senior vice president who serves on the lab’s advisory board, hopes the project will lead to new ideas for supply chains that will benefit the company’s relationship with clients. The Iowa State alum knows the CyBIZ model will also give students the skills they need to compete in the workforce.
“What I’ve learned over the years is that experience is really the best means to truly grasp and understand a concept,” Walker said. “CyBIZ Lab is designed to give students a current business problem to solve. I think having that problem in front of them forces them to apply all their learned skills simultaneously.”
Interested businesses can find more information at: www.business.iastate.edu/cybizlab. Eyles says they’re open to working with businesses of any size, startups and nonprofits. Students can find more information about job postings and projects on the CyBIZ website.