Projects

You get an exclusive opportunity to serve as a consultant and work directly with the leaders of organizations on real-world business issues.  You will build valuable project management, communication, and presentation skills.

As a member of an Experiential Learning Center (ELC) team, you will work with a faculty or business professional coach and other NIU graduate and undergraduate students to tackle a challenge faced by a real organization.   ALL majors are encouraged to apply as projects need a cross-functional perspective. 

Remember HUSKIES get hired, HUSKIES who have project experience really get hired!!

Spring 2019

The YMCA of Rock River Valley is one of the longest standing charitable organizations and has served the greater Rockford area for more than 150 years. The YMCA has evolved and now works for educational attainment, opportunities for youth to grow and thrive, and providing families and seniors with a place to build relationships and their own sense of well-being. The YMCA serves all and continues to grow and expand its reach into the parts of the community that are underserved through strong programs and values the YMCA is known for.

Project:  The YMCA of Rock River Valley has requested an ELC team to conduct a strategic communications project with elements of data analysis and message development. The project team would assist the YMCA in developing outcome measures and an updatable dashboard that would help them better demonstrate the impact of their programs on the community.

An example:  If we know that teaching 1,000 kids to swim reduces drowning deaths by one kid, we want to be able to enter the number of lessons offered and have a dashboard that demonstrates how many lives saved

Topic

Marketing | Communications | Data Analysis

Meeting Time

Tuesday and Thursday
2:00 p.m. - 3:15 p.m.

Faculty Coach

Jacie Collum

The Northern Illinois Research Foundation (NIRF) is a not-for-profit organization (501(c)(3)) that seeks to contribute to and advance the educational, research, public service and economic development mission of Northern Illinois University. NIRF’s purpose includes promoting scientific research at NIU, administering and managing activities to foster out-licensing to third parties of technology invented at NIU, and cultivating the formation of new spin-out companies, so that such technology may be developed and commercialized for the benefit of NIU and the public.

Project:  NIRF would like an ELC team to develop a business plan for a new NIU spin-out company’s diagnostic and therapeutic technologies. In addition, a market analysis for future paths in the IP portfolio will be needed to move selected inventions with enough growth to sustain the business. If you're interested in entrepreneurship, this is a great opportunity to gain an understanding of how to launch a newly developed product .

Topic

Marketing | Entrepreneurship | Business Plan Development

Meeting Time

Tuesday and Thursday
2:00 p.m. - 3:15 p.m.

Faculty Coach

Jason Gorham

Caterpillar is the world's leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines, industrial gas turbines, and diesel-electric locomotives. The company is also a founding corporate sponsor of the Building Ethical Leaders in an Ethics Framework (BELIEF) Program in the College of Business.

Project:  Caterpillar would like an ELC team to engage in a capacity planning project. In the Spring of 2019 the consultant team will build off the previous project completed during the Fall of 2018 semester. More details to come.

Topic

Capacity Planning

Meeting Time

Monday and Wednesday
2:00 p.m.- 3:15 p.m.

Faculty Coach

Neil Doughty

ClostraBio is dedicated to understanding and treating food allergies and other diseases of the immune system. Life-threatening allergic responses to food are an increasingly important public health problem. It is estimated that two children in every classroom now have a food allergy that requires strict dietary avoidance. Children with allergies, and their caretakers, often deal with reduced quality of life from the fear that an accidental exposure will trigger a life-threatening anaphylactic response. ClostraBio creates new medicines to treat and prevent these life-threatening allergic reactions. The company is also studying related diseases, in particular, inflammatory bowel diseases.

Project:  ClostraBio is exploring new therapeutic uses for its medication and believes inflammatory bowel diseases, which include diseases like ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, may be a good target. ClostraBio would like an ELC team to analyze the competitive landscape and target product profile to help best market medication associated with inflammatory bowel disease. This project will include an assessment of the current landscape of similar medications, market size, market research, and evaluation, price point assessment, and data analytics .

Topic

Business Analytics | Finance | Marketing | Market Research | Data Analytics

Meeting Time

Tuesday and Thursday
9:30 a.m.- 10:45 a.m.

Faculty Coach

Neil Doughty

Intelligent Medical Objects (IMO), the industry leader and innovator in Clinical Interface Terminology since 1994, makes sense out of complicated clinical information. IMO bridges the gap between clinical language and complex coding systems and their core terminology products simplify patient documentation and facilitate the capture of clinical information. IMO is the most widely used clinical terminology, with over 500,000 physicians using IMO worldwide.

Over the past year, IMO’s Software Engineering department has implemented an initiative to emphasize a culture of DevOps, intermixing software developers who build applications with operations engineers responsible for building and maintaining the systems that host these applications. An issue facing IMO is that they haven’t been able to take the time to identify or implement a measurable approach to determine if the changes made are leading to positive improvements for Software Engineering in particular, IMO in general.

Project:  IMO would like a team of consultants to develop some Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) related to the change as outlined above, make recommendations on what data to use to model and report on these KPIs. Provided the KPIs are researched and discussed with IMO’s team, IMO will provide actual business data to the NIU team so that they can implement the proposed KPI given source data. IMO has utilized a well-known reference text in the industry regarding information capture but has yet to finalize functionality and measurability. This is currently a real issue that IMO is facing and has the potential to blend the worlds of computer science, engineering, business, math and statistics, and marketing.

Topic

Business | Information Systems | Marketing | Data Analytics

Meeting Time

Monday and Wednesday
9:30 a.m.- 10:45 a.m.

Faculty Coach

Neil Doughty

FSS is the only Domestic Violence agency in the county providing comprehensive services to victims and their families. Victims are provided with information about the Order of Protection process, as well as other supportive services that are available to them.

An updated VAD system is very much needed by FSS to keep proper track of all clients and their statuses throughout Family Shelter’s process. This is a redesign of the website which was developed by an ELC team in 2004.

Topic

Business & Data Analytics | Information Systems | Marketing

Meeting Time

Tuesday and Thursday
9:30 a.m.- 10:45 a.m.

Faculty Coach

Jock Sommese

Lots of regular people are not too smart about their bodies and health. In fact, 90% of the US population lacks basic health literacy. This increases their health risks, degrades medical outcomes, and inflates costs for individuals and across the population. It also causes immeasurable anxiety and suffering related to illness, while undermining personal goals of wellness and self-care.

Humaginarium solves this problem with a new kind of digital health education. We make science more interesting, easier to understand, more relevant and useful. Our video games promote health literacy through very engaging entertainment.

Humaginarium would like an ELC team to research a strategy and recommend ways to effectively commercialize and market high-end video game entertainment directly to consumers. Humaginarium understands that penetration of the video game industry is a formidable challenge and they’re making it harder by conceiving games that embody health science and high-fidelity simulations of human physiology. Why? To improve the lives of players with chronic illness. When you consider that video games are the most popular category of entertainment in the US, and that half of the US population has at least one debilitating chronic illness, you begin to sense a convergence of two massive cultural interests. Yet rarely do people talk about games and health in the same breath. The convergence could become a gigantic market opportunity.

Topic

Marketing | Communications | Data Analytics

Meeting Time

Monday and Wednesday
2:00 p.m.- 3:15 p.m.

Faculty Coach

Jason Gorham

Apply Now

Current 2018

Caterpillar is the world's leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines, industrial gas turbines and diesel-electric locomotives. The company is also a founding corporate sponsor of the Building Ethical Leaders Using an Integrated Ethics Framework (BELIEF) Program in the College of Business.

Caterpillar would like an ELC team to engage in a capacity planning project. More details to come.

Topic

Capacity Planning

Meeting Time

Monday and Wednesday
2-3:15 p.m.

Faculty Coach

TBD

The DeKalb Area Agricultural Heritage Association, Inc. (DAAHA), a nonprofit organization, was officially incorporated on September 25, 2010, with a mission to collect, preserve and share with people of all ages the storied history of agriculture and its innovators in northern Illinois.

DAAHA would like an ELC team to develop an awareness campaign that will include an assessment of current media (electronic and paper) and materials, along with a demographic study to identify the appropriate populations to target for membership, volunteers and participation in activities.

Topic

Awareness Campaign Development

Meeting Time

Monday and Wednesday
9:30-10:45 a.m.

Faculty Coach

TBD

Tronc, Inc. (NASDAQ:TRNC) is a media company rooted in award-winning journalism. Headquartered in Chicago, Tronc operates newsrooms in ten markets with titles including the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, New York Daily News, The Baltimore Sun, Orlando Sentinel, south Florida's Sun-Sentinel, Newport News, Virginia’s Daily Press, The Morning Call (Allentown, Pennsylvania), Hartford Courant and The San Diego Union-Tribune. Tronc is committed to informing, inspiring and engaging local communities. Its legacy of brands has earned a combined 105 Pulitzer Prizes.

Tronc’s brands create and distribute content across its media portfolio, offering integrated marketing, media and business services, including digital solutions and advertising opportunities, to consumers and advertisers.

Tronc asks an ELC team to assist with leveraging the data it captures. Is it going to market effectively? How can it best position itself against Google, Facebook and other local media? Tronc is looking for a cross-functional student team to tackle this issue and utilize Tableau software to display results.

Topic

Data Analytics

Meeting Time

Tuesday and Thursday
11 a.m.-12:15 p.m.

Faculty Coach

TBD

Past Projects

Spring 2018

The Northern Illinois Research Foundation (NIRF) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that seeks to contribute to and advance the educational, research, public service and economic development mission of NIU. NIRF operates solely in connection with and exclusively for the benefit of NIU, nonprofit research and development institutions, laboratories, and allied and clinical health facilities. NIRF’s purpose includes promoting scientific research at NIU, administering and managing activities to foster the out-licensing of technology invented at NIU to third parties, and fostering the formation of new spin-out companies, so that such technology may be developed and commercialized for the benefit of NIU and the public.

NIRF would like an ELC team to perform a market analysis of two production paths for a laser-assisted machining system. An estimate of immediate, current and future markets for each path will be required. In addition, a preliminary business plan will be needed to move the selected product to market with sufficient growth to sustain the business.

If you're interested in entrepreneurship, you'll gain an understanding of how to launch a newly developed product.

Topic

Commercialization of Newly Patented Product

Meeting Time

Tuesday and Thursday
11 a.m.-12:15 p.m.

Faculty Coach

Bart Sharp, Ph.D. / Joan Petros

Spring 2018

Founded in 1888, Abbott is a globally diversified health care company with the central purpose of helping people live their healthiest possible lives. Under the pioneering leadership of Dr. Abbott, the company was among the founders of the scientific practice of pharmacy, expanding its business to meet rising global health needs by championing new areas of medical research. By continually entering new areas - both scientific and geographic - Abbott established a now long-standing tradition of helping people live healthier lives around the world. Dr. Abbott’s spirit of entrepreneurship, innovation and caring lives on in culture, business and contributions to medical science.

SAP has been implemented in several key markets as the foundation of the company's end-to-end back office, commercial and manufacturing processes. Having established this enterprise foundation, Abbott now looks for new innovations leveraging company tools to discover insights, drive efficiencies and deliver value.

Abbott IT would like to challenge a talented group from the NIU ELC to uncover potential innovations within the SAP ecosystem (core SAP and integrations) highlighting the capabilities of machine learning, big data, block chain, analytics, artificial intelligence, robotics, IoT and other emerging trends.

What are other organizations doing, and where are the large opportunities that provide the most value? The team will provide example case studies, implementations and best practices. What are the key metrics that are used when tracking these implementations?

Topic

SAP Enhancement Strategy

Meeting Time

Monday and Wednesday
2-3:15 p.m.

Faculty Coach

Andrew Setterstrom, Ph.D.

Spring 2018

UniCarriers is an American company located in Marengo, Illinois, that designs, manufacturers and supports a complete line of material handling equipment. The company is part of a global industrial powerhouse, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Forklift & Engine Turbocharger Holdings, Ltd., which is now the third-largest forklift manufacturer in the world.

UniCarriers (UCA) asked an ELC team to analyze and assess the future impact of a newer technology to the material handling market. What is the potential TAM (total available market) of this technology over the next five to ten years? How could this technology impact UCA’s current business?

This project will provide students with experience in introducing new technology in a mature market.

Topic

Assesment of New Product - A Potential Industry Disruptor?

Meeting Time

Tuesday and Thursday
11 a.m.-12:15 p.m.

Faculty Coach

Shail Godambe

Spring 2018

Medline is the largest privately held manufacturer and distributor of health care supplies in the U.S., providing more than 350,000 products that serve the entire continuum of care. The company's innovative products and programs can be found in most hospitals, extended-care facilities, surgery centers, physician offices, home care dealers, home health agencies and retail outlets.

Founded in 1910, Medline has grown from a small manufacturer of aprons, surgical gowns and uniforms to a thriving $8.1 billion global enterprise, due to the company's dedicated people, entrepreneurial spirit and honest values.

The ELC is currently evaluating sales data using Tableau for Medline. The upcoming project will be a continuation of the current project focusing on specific customer segments.

Students will gain experience working with data analytics, evaluating results and utilizing methods of displaying relevant information.

Topic

Data Analysis

Meeting Time

Tuesday and Thursday
12:30-1:45 p.m.

Faculty Coach

James Johnson, Ph.D.

Spring 2018

Northern Illinois Food Bank, a proud member of Feeding America, is the source of nutritious food, innovative feeding programs and hope for more than 71,500 people each week. The food bank’s mission is to lead the northern Illinois community in solving hunger by providing nutritious meals to those in need through innovative programs and partnerships. The food bank is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with a goal of solving hunger in a 13-county service area. It relies on generous donors, volunteers and community partners such as local food pantries and feeding programs, food manufacturers and retailers, companies, foundations and individuals for help achieving their vision of no hunger in northern Illinois. The food bank is a member of the “Blueberry” peer group of Feeding America, which consists of 22 food banks across the U.S. with similar attributes.

Food banks can easily measure output, such as the number of meals or locations served. However, measuring societal impact can be much more difficult.

The food bank and their fellow Blueberry peers would like an ELC team to help determine the outputs and outcomes it should be measuring to determine if activities are furthering its mission. The team will be tasked with:

  • Collecting and analyzing all available food bank metrics
  • Determining if existing or easily added metrics can be utilized to further the food bank's mission
  • Generating a set of best practices regarding measuring outcomes

Students will gain experience in evaluating the outcomes of organizational activities.

Topic

Establish Best Practices to Measure Impact

Meeting Time

Tuesday and Thursday
12:30-1:45 p.m.

Faculty Coach

William Tallon, Ph.D.

Experiential Learning Center Coaches

ELC coaches are professors, instructors and business professionals. They act as guides and resources for ELC teams. Coaches do not give the teams the answers. Instead, they challenge and encourage the teams to think critically about business issues and be creative in their problem-solving. They keep the students focused on providing value to the sponsoring organization.

ELC assistant coaches are past graduate and undergraduate ELC team members. They act as peer resources to the teams by providing leadership, direction and assistance with project management.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the ELC?

You'll have unique real-world educational experiences at the Experiential Learning Center (ELC). The ELC provides valuable research, fresh ideas and recommendations to sponsoring organizations. Since 2000, the ELC has successfully completed 167 projects for 88 unique sponsors.

Successful ELC projects result from the following:

  • Committed students
  • Dedicated coaches
  • Accessible sponsors

Students apply to be on an ELC team and are hand-picked by the coach. Coaches keep the teams on track and serve as guides. Student teams learn by working through ambiguous situations.

Sponsoring organizations pay a project fee to the ELC. In turn, project teams are expected to provide sponsors with a return on their investment.

How does the ELC benefit students?

With each project, you'll take on the role of a consultant. Project management, communication, presentation, team building, leadership and technical skills are developed throughout the project experience. With these valuable skills, you'll be prepared to step into the business world feeling confident and knowledgeable.

How is the experience structured?

Teams meet in the dedicated ELC facility on the third floor of Barsema Hall two times each week. Meetings usually last one-and-a-half hours. Each team follows a project management methodology throughout the semester. Research and the development of key project deliverables generally require three to ten hours of outside work. A final presentation to the sponsoring organization brings closure to the project. At this time, the student team is expected to deliver value to the sponsoring organization. There are no syllabi, quizzes or exams. Final grades are determined by the coach and are dependent on the completion of key project deliverables.

How are students selected?

Teams include a mix of five to eight graduate and undergraduate students. Students are chosen based on their competency in business, technology and communication skills; their ability to contribute as team members; their ability to work in an unstructured environment; and their willingness and desire to learn in such an environment. In addition, College of Business students should have successfully completed UBUS 310. For non-College of Business students, junior standing is required. Students are recruited the semester before a project is scheduled and go through a selection process similar to that of being hired for a position of employment. No student is invited (or not invited) based on his or her gender, race, religious beliefs, sexual preference or nation of origin.

How do I apply for a project?

Complete an online application, which includes a cover letter and resume. You may apply for one or more projects. If selected, formal interviews are scheduled with the project coaches. Project coaches choose the team members, and all applicants are notified before the end of the semester.

Contact Us

Experiential Learning Center
Barsema Hall 303
740 Garden Road
DeKalb, IL 60115
815-753-4006
elc@niu.edu

NIU College of Business AACSB Accredited



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