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This post is the first in a series that dives deep into an experiential learning course, one of Kellogg’s unique curriculum offerings. Keep checking Inside Kellogg for more insights from Professor Shapiro and his students!

By Joel K. Shapiro, Clinical Associate Professor of Data Analytics

In the 2019-2020 academic year, I relaunched Kellogg’s Analytical Consulting Lab, a 10-week experiential course in which student teams work with real companies on real projects in real-time with real data. The calculus is simple: Kellogg students’ analytics expertise + powerful analytic software + business’ need to be analytically-driven = ACL.

For students: better learning, better job-readiness, better resumes

Experiential learning is the single most effective way to develop practical expertise. Can I create a compelling lecture on how to select variables from a data set for inclusion in a model? Sure. But when a student realizes that the world almost never hands you a clean data set… well, that’s when real-life shows up. (No judgment on my geekiness please, but I almost cried when a recent student team came up with a super-creative and powerful control variable for a regression at the core of their work.)

Real-life projects and uncertainty is where trade-offs are weighed, decisions are made, and leaders step up.  Doesn’t that sound exactly like what you’d want from a great education?

ACL is also an exceptional student resume boost. You took four advanced analytics electives? Great! You helped a real company solve a real problem with real data? Even better. Students, if you take ACL and don’t include a description on your resume of how you helped a business achieve better outcomes using data, then you’ve let a huge opportunity go by. Hiring managers like candidates that know how to “do analytics.”  But they LOVE candidates who have successfully “done analytics” to help X company generate Y insight to improve Z business outcomes.

For companies: valuable insights, access to Kellogg, and the “learning effect”

Companies don’t participate in ACL out of the goodness of their hearts (though many have awfully good hearts.) Companies want value, and ACL delivers.

First and foremost, companies get good insights to their pressing problems. Kellogg ACL students have used advanced analytics to help solve problems around marketing effectiveness, pricing strategies, product development, talent management, and more.

Companies also get the opportunity to engage in a world-class business community with access to faculty expertise and Kellogg’s exceptional pipeline of student talent. More than one company has told me that their 10-week experience with ambitious, smart, and analytically savvy MBAs has been a great way for them to go deep on a hiring strategy. Some ACL projects have led directly to job offers.

And some benefits are a wonderful and unexpected surprise. While debriefing a Spring 2020 project, an ACL client said something that I’ll mention here and expand upon in an upcoming post. He said, “The student insights were good and important, but the project also had a big ‘learning effect’ for us.” When I pressed on what he meant by the “learning effect,” he said “Kellogg students showed us what a high-functioning analytics team should look like and how we should approach analytical problem-solving.”

A win-win, indeed.

Companies interested in joining ACL can learn more at: or send me an email at