Thursday, June 13, 2019
By Ruth Paarman

In the Tippie College of Business, a powerful mechanism exists for providing its students with real-world experiences and relationships that lead to careers. Four student-focused institutes forge networks and experiential learning that advance classroom knowledge to the next level. The Hawkinson Institute, Marketing Institute, Tippie Analytics Cooperative, and Vaughan Institute for Risk Management and Insurance all support the professional development of students. Participating students expand their industry-specific knowledge, plus, they emerge with strong skill sets that appeal to employers in several sectors—banking, marketing, business analytics, and insurance.

Hawkinson Institute

The Hawkinson Institute launched in 1999 as a way to train and promote finance majors for jobs in the investment banking industry—an ambitious objective, considering the industry has historically focused on Ivy League schools for its recruits. With its emphasis on collaborative learning, peer and professional networking, and interview preparation, the Hawkinson Institute has succeeded in achieving 100 percent placement for its 20 graduates each year.

“With the acceleration of the industry’s recruiting process over the past few years, we now bring most of our students in as freshmen,” says Brian Richman, director of the Hawkinson Institute. “In their sophomore year, we begin developing Hawkinson Scholars’ investment banking knowledge and skills to ensure they’ll be competitive for post-junior year internships, which are the key entry point for full-time positions in the field.”

Industry speakers and alumni interactions allow Hawkinson Scholars to network and learn from individuals who can share insights on mergers and acquisitions, capital markets, the roles of junior bankers, and more.  They also help guide students through the rigorous interview process.

“Our alumni play a vital role in terms of both coming to mentor and teach students as well as helping recruit Hawkinson Scholars into their firms,” Brian says.

One of those alumni is Nick Barry (BBA ’18), an investment banking analyst at Moelis & Company in Los Angeles. When he was a senior, Nick was one of several upperclassmen tapped to lead a series of interview prep seminars. The sessions built on the base of financial accounting, corporate valuation, and other technical topics covered in the weekly Hawkinson class as well as other Finance Department courses. The seniors also worked with sophomores on behavioral interview questions. Through this, he developed a peer mentoring relationship with current Hawkinson student Ryan Brennan, a double major in finance and industrial engineering.

“I became a resource for Ryan to bounce ideas off of,” Nick says. “I shared stories and helped him understand what banks are looking for, and we talked about tying his personal story to why he’d be a good candidate for XYZ bank.”

Ryan hoped to follow in his mentor’s footsteps, so he and Nick worked relentlessly on mock interviews.

“Nick coached me through Moelis’ specific recruiting process. It was amazingly helpful,” says Ryan, who landed a summer internship at the mergers and acquisitions firm. “Working there will be an opportunity to apply my classroom learning to the real world.”

Ryan notes that the connections he has made with alumni across the country and with peers have enriched his life.

“The Hawkinson Institute provided the most significant college experience I’ve had. I would not be where I am without it,” Ryan says.

Better yet—Ryan is now giving back after receiving so much for two years.

“I’ve reaped the benefits, and now I and others in my class are leading roundtables and doing mock interviews with younger students.”

Nick appreciates how the institute helps UI students get recruited by major investment banking firms.

“The Hawkinson Institute provides a path to the investment banking world that is largely inaccessible to most recruits in the Midwest,” Nick says. “It helps us compete.”

Marketing Institute

Since around 2010, marketing juniors have been able to apply for the Marketing Institute and its many opportunities to learn career-specific skills. What the 40 students in the institute may not realize is that this opportunity is unique in the Big Ten.

“Programs offering external marketing projects are almost always MBA level,” says Director Peggy Stover. “Thanks to the time and generosity of our 20-member advisory board, we help students look at real-world problems and learn from professionals.”

Over the last decade, Marketing Institute participants have completed projects for nearly 50 clients, from startups to multibillion-dollar companies. Every year, the senior cohorts tackle four projects. They research the company, identify marketing issues, analyze data, and provide recommendations the company can implement. 

According to Advisory Board President Mike Hankins (MBA88), the projects focus on developing crucial workplace skills—namely, teamwork and written and oral communication.

“The more they can practice writing and speaking, the better,” says Mike. “We also emphasize teamwork. It was important at John Deere, where I worked, and it’s still true for many companies today.”

The year-long projects give students an ability to understand how different personalities and backgrounds work in groups, he explains.

“You have to be able to count on your teammates to complete assignments and conquer the problem together.”

Several advisory board members gather to hear preliminary presentations in the fall and provide feedback to teams about their initial problem statement and presentation style. The teams then respond with further research, client visits, and practice. Close to project completion in the spring, the board listens to their final presentations, offering kudos and further feedback.

“These projects are often key to these students realizing what they would like to do for a living,” Mike notes.

Like other alumni on the board, Mike also mentors students and lends his experience and expertise in the classroom.

“Peggy brings me in on her class conversations. I give them pointers and provide examples from my experience.” This spring, he talked about office politics.

“I really enjoy visiting with students. Mentoring two or three students is a great way to ask what I can do for them,” Mike says. “I wish I’d had this golden opportunity when I was their age. They can look at careers and companies they might want to work for in the future. I and the other advisory board members fully embrace making connections with these students.”

The diversity on the board enables students to learn more about specific marketing careers.

“A student who is interested can ask someone from the Minnesota Vikings what they should do to get into sports marketing,” he says. While they may not get a job there, they can gain valuable information about the industry.

Peggy says most Marketing Institute graduates go on to work for well-known employers or continue studying at prestigious grad schools. Many score higher starting salaries as a result of their intensive experience.

Tippie Analytics Cooperative

As Big Data grows and evolves, so have data-related majors. After the business analytics and information systems (BAIS) major was created in 2013, the department experienced a more than 30 percent annual growth in students choosing the major. The growth prompted the change of the department’s name to Department of Business Analytics in April 2019.

The Tippie Analytics Cooperative, begun in 2017, provides an industry connection to students and the department, primarily serving as a source of projects for the major’s capstone courses.

To keep up with a student body that has now grown to more than 400 students, the cooperative finds corporate partners who can provide real-world problems for students to solve.

“The primary focus is to be the department’s liaison to industry,” says Barry Thomas, professor and department head. “Our Advisory Council helps ensure that our curriculum serves employer needs in the fast-changing landscape of analytics and information systems. The cooperative created a mechanism to source these projects. We build relationships with companies to be partners in the projects and to support the funding of academic and case competition scholarships.”

In 2018, State Farm enabled the expansion of the BAIS Lab where students work on their projects. That year also marked the start of a scholarship program to support students and send them to case competitions.

“This year, we chose scholarship recipients by GPA,” says Barry. “Next year, we will expand our criteria to meet broad objectives within the department.”

One such scholarship was awarded to Shangguan Wang, an undergraduate research assistant who dove into case competitions as well as classroom projects working directly with real companies.

“Compared to other majors, the BAIS has a lot of opportunities for hands-on experience, which is what companies are looking for,” Shangguan says. “In the capstone course consulting projects, four or five students work on solving a business problem related to data. It provides me an opportunity to learn statistics and math as well as a lot of side skills, like presenting and how to approach a problem.”

Shangguan also enjoys short-term problem solving through case competitions. In the Midwest Undergraduate Data Analytics Competition in fall 2018, her Tippie team earned second place for their approach on voter turnout prediction in Minnesota’s eight congressional districts.

“The case competition experience shows employers you are there to challenge yourself and jump higher,” she says. “It also requires leadership, teamwork, time management, and public speaking skills.”

Her efforts did not go unnoticed. Accenture hired Shangguan as a technology analyst prior to her graduation in May.

Barry notes that BAIS graduates have many career options in data analytics as well as information systems. The job market is evolving as companies in nearly every industry better understand how to leverage analytics, even as artificial intelligence and machine learning begin to change the landscape.

Vaughan Institute of Risk Management and Insurance

While the Vaughan Institute of Risk Management and Insurance falls under the Tippie College, its hallmark is to welcome, attract, and prepare students for careers in the risk management and insurance industry. Any undergraduate student on campus can earn a Certificate in Risk Management Insurance (RMI Certificate) by completing four upper-level courses and four prerequisites. Prerequisites are waived for Tippie students. Even if they don’t complete all four courses, students can reap the benefits of a robust tapestry of experiential learning opportunities and activities that are supported by industry leaders.

“Our mission is to get students excited about risk management and insurance. In addition to the experiences we create in our courses, we offer mentoring, a resume database, a student organization, scholarships, and networking activities that help students prepare for careers in the insurance field,” says Thomas Berry-Stoelzle, faculty director of the institute.

Two of the courses offer experiential components—Property and Liability Insurance (PLI) and Corporate and Financial Risk Management. For PLI, approximately 80 students each semester form groups and work to develop relationships with local businesses and complete risk assessments—exactly like an independent insurance agent. In the risk management course, the institute seeks five or six companies each year to provide data for more advanced group projects, which provide key networking opportunities as well.

As the certificate courses grow, so does the student fraternity, Gamma Iota Sigma (GIS). Tippie finance major Austin Lytle serves as the vice president of finance and fundraising for GIS, which has grown from 47 members to 74 over the last five years.

“There’s a growing opportunity in this industry. Students are aware of risk management and insurance, and more graduates are having success within the industry,” Austin says. “GIS reaches out to find three speakers each semester to talk about interview skills, resumes, and how we should present ourselves. That helps a lot with networking and finding job opportunities.”

As Austin works toward graduating in December with his RMI Certificate, he continues to strengthen friendships by organizing events and traveling with GIS to conferences. A recent conference in San Antonio diversified his network beyond the Midwest employers who attend career fairs on campus.

GIS has helped him grow both as an individual and professional, he says.

“It’s important to learn more about the industry outside the classroom. When you meet with people and employers in the field, you learn about different facets of the industry,” Austin says. “The social factor gives you a head start and sets you apart.”

Austin has also attended the annual Dana Ramundt Golf Outing. This fundraising and networking event places students on golf greens so they can meet more than 100 employers who support the Vaughan Institute.

“We’re a matchmaker. We make it easy for students to understand career paths by hearing professionals talk about their careers. We also make it easy for them to reach out to employers in different ways,” Thomas says. “The risk management and insurance industry needs us to help students gain exposure to the many types of jobs available. 

This article first appeared in the summer 2019 edition of Tippie Magazinea semiannual publication for alumni and friends of the Tippie College of Business. A complimentary subscription is provided to those who make an annual gift of $10 or more to the college.