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Business Students Gain Hands-On Experience in Generative AI Strategy

WSB partners with consulting firm McKinsey to host interactive workshop

By Andrea Anderson | Photography by Joshua K. Prado

May 21, 2024

Wisconsin School of Business graduate students at a generative AI workshop
Students Erin Anderson, Sarah Kirchner, Younjoo Lee, Gayeon Lee, and Kathleen Wade share their thoughts about the use of AI during an applied-learning workshop with the consulting firm McKinsey & Company on Feb. 9, 2024.

Generative AI is changing the nature of business. To be at the forefront, students need to prepare to be innovators who use this rapidly evolving technology to improve business. 

During an applied-learning workshop, Wisconsin School of Business graduate students spent a day learning from leaders with the consulting firm McKinsey & Company and getting hands-on experience creating marketing strategies with generative AI tools. 

Alex Singla, senior partner at McKinsey and co-leader of QuantumBlack, AI by McKinsey, led the activity and was joined by several McKinsey colleagues who shared their expertise during a panel discussion. 

The panelists discussed how companies can build and deploy generative AI to drive value, solve problems, and create unprecedented efficiencies.

“The panel shared valuable insights into the ethical considerations and best practices for using generative AI responsibly,” says Barbara Trujillo (MBA ’25), a full-time MBA student who participated in the workshop. “It sparked interesting discussions about the potential impact of generative AI on different industries and society. It prompted us to look at the importance of legal and risk management within the growing field of generative AI.”

As a consulting firm, McKinsey’s role is to help companies understand the value they can extract from AI effectively and responsibly, and how to sustain it. McKinsey also helps clients experiment, test, adopt, and scale AI quickly.

“With generative AI, we are talking with clients about where and how to play,” Singla says. “But in many ways, it’s also about helping mankind and humanity. The value that AI can deliver is exponential; that is the most inspiring part. So we are really investing in that topic.”

A few pieces of advice from Singla and Stephen Xu, associate partner at McKinsey: Experiment with AI. Learn what’s possible. Work as a team. 

“Think about it as a team sport,” Xu says. “I still read all the articles and develop my own knowledge, but I also surround myself with people who can go deeper than I can. Don’t feel like you have to learn everything. Do your part and surround yourself with others.”

Yugandar Caparala and Michael Rosplock during the generative AI event
Yugandar Caparala and Michael Rosplock laugh as they look at images that AI software produced during the applied-learning workshop with consulting firm McKinsey & Company on Feb. 9, 2024.

Students were able to draw on the panelists’ expertise in the interactive consulting activity where, working in teams, they used AI tools to create a marketing strategy and campaign for a new product. 

“I particularly appreciated the emphasis on ‘prompt engineering,’ stressing the need to collaborate with generative AI, not just rely on it. The dedicated activity on crafting effective prompts solidified this point,” says Smriti Luthra (MBA ’24).

Fellow student Johnny Gomez (MBA ’24) also shared this takeaway. “The workshop was both fascinating and inspiring. … This technology is poised to significantly enhance customer experiences and operational efficiencies, marking a new era of innovation and competitive advantage.”

The partnership with McKinsey and its leaders highlights WSB’s continued investment in the AI space and the school’s long history of collaborating with corporate partners in providing meaningful and innovative applied-learning experiences for students.