virtual consulting team The Boilermaker Consulting Group is a virtual, multidisciplinary team that has already helped the University improve its procurement processes and save money to help maintain a tuition freeze. (Stock photo)

Virtual Success

Alumni-driven consulting group benefits students and their clients

What happens when you combine alumni engagement and student organizations with experiential learning opportunities and companies seeking to optimize their business during a global health crisis?

At Purdue, you get the Boilermaker Consulting Group (BCG), a virtual, multidisciplinary team that has already helped the University improve its procurement processes, save money to help maintain a tuition freeze, build industry partnerships, and provide a transformative experience to nearly 40 students across 13 majors and three colleges and schools ­— and they’re just getting started.

Small Steps

Planning for the inaugural consulting project actually began in fall 2019, prior to the pandemic and students transitioning to online learning in spring 2020.

Jeff PowersAt that time, the group included retired IBM executive Jeff Powers (left), a member of the Krannert School Alumni Association (KSAA) and co-chair of the student-alumni engagement committee, and Mary Slater, Shell TechWorks Business Excellence Manager, KSAA board member and alumni advisor for the Operations and Supply Chain Organization (OSCO). Amy David, a clinical assistant professor specializing in supply chain and operations management and student-led consulting projects, provided counsel.  

The leaders of several Krannert student organizations were part of the initial planning, including OSCO and the Association of Industrial Management Students (AIMS), along with a group of senior industrial engineering students and student consulting groups from PurdueThink and Purdue Solutions. Other students from the Krannert School, College of Engineering, and Purdue Polytechnic joined the team later in the spring semester.

“We all decided to try to take the clubs to the next level,” Powers says. “The students in particular wanted to work with alumni advisors to help shape an agenda for upcoming events that prepared them for applying what they have learned outside of the classroom as they strive for careers in supply chain, consulting or work in the high-tech industry.”

The first project began close to home with Robert Wynkoop, associate vice president of Purdue Auxiliary Services, who wanted assistance in supporting the University’s ongoing tuition freeze by making its procurement process and buying more cost-efficient. What started as a traditional consulting project quickly shifted gears to a virtual platform when the pandemic struck.

“They knocked it out of the ballpark,” Wynkoop says. “We essentially gave them a problem and some supporting data. The team took that and ran with it. They had little procurement experience, but their analytical foundation was solid and they kept asking questions. I could not have asked for a better final product — solid, executable recommendations with great analysis to back it up. Just a great project!”

The BCG quickly secured another supply chain virtual consulting project by collaborating with Rolls-Royce and GE Aviation on an industry strategy paper focused on best practice responses to the COVID pandemic. The team has approached other industry partners in the aerospace and defense sector with similar proposals.

"For students who lost their internships for the summer due to the impact of COVID-19, these opportunities helped ensure the effects of the pandemic won't be detrimental to our work toward future full-time employment,” says Lauren Heiss, the group’s business development lead and a senior studying industrial engineering.

“We have taken what we have learned from the project about leveraging technology, along with advice from Purdue faculty and alumni experts, to deliver significant client value and insights for a virtual consulting experience to be replicated for future Boilermakers."

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