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Update | Spring/Summer 2022

New Certificate Builds Students’ Consulting Credentials

By Leiah Fundell

Photography by Paul L. Newby II

People presenting
Nathan Kirchmier, vice president at Walton Street Capital, speaks to WSB undergraduate students as part of a consulting trek.

Grace Orella (BBA ’22) didn’t know that she wanted to go into consulting until fall of her senior year when a friend recommended that she look into it. A marketing and supply chain management major at WSB, Orella was already honing the exact skills her future employer Accenture was looking for in a quality consulting candidate. Her deep understanding of data analytics, presentation confidence, and soft skills like business communication and collaboration were all picked up through her coursework as well as experiential learning outside the classroom.

“With my majors, there are so many different paths I could have gone down,” says Orella. “Getting to experience different companies and industries is something that was so important to me over my time at UW and ultimately led me toward a career path in consulting.”

While Orella’s pivot was a serendipitous shift late in her student experience, many students have consulting career aspirations from the moment they step foot onto campus. And the demand from employers is there, too.

“Students want to go into consulting,” says Melissa Leffin (BBA ’09), director of career engagement for the undergraduate program. “As we’re successfully placing more students in this industry, we’re also strategically growing our employer partnerships and alumni connections in this field.”

Soon, students will have a new opportunity to build their credentials in consulting through an undergraduate certificate.

The new consulting certificate, slated to roll out in Fall 2022, responds to growing student interest in consulting careers. It is also a strategic alignment of the school’s mission to achieve core school recruiting status among top firms and drive strategic growth in corporate consulting.

“The goal was to develop curricular experience for students to gain key skills sought after by consulting firms,” says Steven M. Boeder, director of the Erdman Center for Operations and Technology Management, who has led development of the consulting certificate. “The benefits of this certificate are multi-dimensional, including increased alumni engagement, partnerships among graduate and undergraduate students, partnerships with other schools and colleges, increased employer engagement, and overall student preparedness for the workforce.”

The curriculum will help develop foundational consulting knowledge and skills specifically in the areas of project management, business communication, advanced analytics, strategy, organizational change, and technology. A new case interview analysis course will help students effectively implement a systematic approach to analyzing case problems and then concisely communicate that analysis with actionable recommendations. After completing all course requirements, students should be able to apply consulting knowledge and understanding to applied settings and ultimately secure consulting roles with top firms in the industry.

“The goal was to develop curricular experience for students to gain key skills sought after by consulting firms.”

—Steve Boeder

The seeds for the certificate were planted between the Badger Consulting Club and the Wisconsin Consulting Club, whose combined membership includes more than 130 students across WSB, the College of Letters and Science, and the College of Engineering. The Wisconsin Consulting Club receives 50-90 applications each semester and traditionally has been the hub for students interested in consulting careers.

Leta Krueger (BS ’22), Wisconsin Consulting Club president, and James Ly (BBA ’23), vice president of internal development for the club’s executive board, were integral to developing the consulting certificate by providing research into the student interest, demand, and content for the certificate.

“The consulting certificate is a testament to the Wisconsin School of Business’ commitment to providing students with the most innovative and challenging curriculum,” says Ly. “It will allow more students to pursue consulting and expand UW–Madison’s overall presence in the field.”

The certificate is open to all UW students who want to develop consulting skills as part of their undergraduate experience. The demand is projected to be as high as 150 to 200 undergraduate students.

WSB has always prioritized experiential learning opportunities, knowing they provide a competitive advantage to students entering the job market. The Wisconsin Consulting Club and Badger Consulting Club have been the primary source for these experiences, providing members with networking trips to consulting firms, information panels and case workshops with alumni, mock interviews, and access to a broad consulting network.

As a precursor to the certificate’s launch, WSB offered a career exploration trek in March 2022 as part of its Career Forward program, which helps to guide undergraduates’ aspirations in more than forty career pathways, including consulting. Twenty undergraduate students visited Chicago firms Spaulding Ridge, Bain & Company, and Walton Street Capital to learn from and network with alumni in consulting, finance, and technology.

“The certificate is an investment that will continue to pay dividends long into the future for WSB and the consulting industry,” says Jonathon Kuether (BBA ’08), associate partner at Bain & Company, who met with students during the consulting trek. “My hope is that the certificate helps increase earlier interest for students, resulting in an increased number of prepared candidates.”