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Sophomores Gain ‘Reality Consulting’ Views, Experience Via EY Course
Eight sophomore students got the opportunity to try out the rigors of an information technology consulting career during the fall semester through a unique new learning experience developed by Ernst & Young LLP (EY) and the School of Information Studies (iSchool). The course, GET 400, “Global Consulting Challenges,” is part of the Global Enterprise Technology program, which emphasizes experiential learning opportunities.
Instead of discovering what technology consulting is about via textbook, lectures and labs, the students lived the consulting life, grappling with real business issues and client-interaction dimensions. After a rigorous interview process, selected candidates for the course had the semester-long assignment of developing a risk assessment strategy for a global financial company that wanted to gauge the validity and safety of implementing a global Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy.
The successful course, led by Associate Professor Jason Dedrick, is being repeated this spring with an expanded class of 12 students. It is being taught by Associate Professor of Practice David Dischiave, director of the GET program.
“EY enjoyed this pilot opportunity to expose the emerging sophomores with both the challenges and excitement of a technology consulting project,” notes David Kahan, program creator and senior manager within EY’s financial services practice. “We recruit heavily from Syracuse University and have therefore established a strong program to mentor and coach the students via this ‘experiential learning’ approach.”
Mike Cyran, partner within EY’s financial services practice, adds “We are hopeful that the students recognize that much uncertainty exists within global projects, and the key is to collaboratively construct a focused plan that contains a foundational understanding of the key risks before they make decisions.”
The students in the fall 2014 course formed two consulting teams, each with two EY mentors. The groups worked on various aspects of risk assessment and control consideration, tailoring their analyses to the financial services industry and to relevant regulations in the U.S., Europe and several Asia-Pacific countries. The students did extensive research and developed a dynamic risk assessment tool to quantify the risks faced in each region and the controls the bank had in place. But the realism did not end when the semester was over. EY invited all eight students to travel to New York, where the teams made the case for their recommendations by making formal presentations to several top executives at EY’s U.S. headquarters.
According to Dedrick, the trial program permitted the company to begin interfacing with students in their sophomore years, before they had experienced internships at other companies. The company wanted to work with promising students who, a year later, might be interested in potential internships with EY, as well as potential jobs with the organization upon their graduation.
The project prepared students for the challenges of working in a large global enterprise in a way that reflects the actual environment students would face, the professors agree. “Working in isolated courses, with only lectures and lab exercises in a controlled environment does not do that; that’s not how industry works,” Dischiave notes.
The teams included students with several different majors. The “Cusesulting” team included: Wyatt Bourdeau (information management and technology); Anjali Alwis (television, radio and film major); Sara Wong (IM&T); and Eric Larkin, a computer science major.
The other team, “EKAE Group,” consisted of sophomores Emily Dang (IM&T and international relations); Adrian Hatch (IM&T); Eddy Klitenick (IM&T and supply chain management); and Kwabena (Kobby) Tettey (IM&T, with a minor in global enterprise technology).
Larkin notes that he had never done any business-related projects before, and yet the course, “allowed me the opportunity to explore a different side of technology application. I particularly enjoyed the security gap analysis and risk assessment.” As Dang reflected on the course, she says, “This has been a growing experience that has pushed me out of my comfort zone and made me think critically and deeply about new and interesting topics on a global scale.”
Tettey explains that the course allowed him to learn about the exact demands of the consulting profession, as well as the practical issues involved in global, distributed operations, such as working with clients who live overseas and in different time zones. “One thing I learned … was the emphasis on team collaboration and group effort,” he says. “Oftentimes, it is important to have a diverse group of people with expertise across different fields that can bring different ideas to the table. Such groups often come up with very innovative solutions to problems.”