For the last three years, small groups of SOM students have taken a different kind of business course. Working with the Yale Center for Customer Insights, the students have consulted for some of the biggest corporations on earth. They studied the actions of consumers for PepsiCo, Sears, Stanley Works, and Visa, providing detailed recommendations and working with senior management to solve real problems.
This spring, six students began a project for Visa, aimed at helping the company improve its performance in customer insights, a growing part of marketing where the habits of consumers are studied to find new products they might need. Over the course of the semester, the students – Shobhan Agarwal ’10, Kristine Belford ’09, Ishita Deshmukh ’09, Art Janik ’09, Eric Mattes ’09, and exchange student Pallavi Reddy – spoke with customer insight executives at a host of firms to discover best practices, while analyzing data that helped flesh out their recommendations.
Ravi Dhar, the George Rogers Clark professor of marketing and the center's director, said that the problems the students were asked to solve were of a significantly higher level than they would face as recent MBA graduates. "We're forcing them to go beyond what we've taught them," he said. "In a course like this, which is fully project-based, it really allows students to leverage all the different courses they have taken. The expectations are very high. It's a discovery process at many levels for the students."