Syracuse University Magazine


Dylan Weinberger '16 (left) and Austin Wentworth '16 appreciated the guidance that finance professor Jim Seward gave them on their Consurtio pilot project. 

Photo courtesy of Whitman School of Management

Student-Run Firm Elevates Experiential Learning

The Whitman School of Management recently launched a new experiential learning venture that aims to change the course of business education. Consurtio, a student-run firm, is Whitman’s response to the premium employers are placing on practical preparation of students. “Experiential learning has long been an underpinning of the Whitman School, but Consurtio was conceived from the notion that we can go further in preparing students,” Whitman Dean Ken Kavajecz says. “Through Consurtio, students will not only perform the responsibilities of their chosen career path, they will make real business decisions for real clients and for the firm itself. Empowering students in this way will create a unique and exceedingly valuable experience.”

The venture’s backbone of directors, staff, and faculty is in place to perform business development and HR functions, but Kavajecz contends students are in the driver seat. “There is no set plan for how Consurtio will evolve,” he says. “The course of the company is for the students to set.”

Student participation in Consurtio is highly competitive and comes in one of two forms—internal operations (accounting, marketing, etc.) or client project work within one of the company’s initial external divisions (consulting, turnaround, nonprofit, innovation index, and business accelerator). Juniors, seniors, and master’s students are eligible to apply, and academic credits are awarded for participation. MBA students may lead undergraduates on project teams and have the opportunity to rotate through different executive-level roles, gaining experience across a range of business areas.

Consurtio CEO Terry Brown, who also leads Whitman’s Falcone Center for Entrepreneurship, believes Consurtio experience will put students years ahead of their peers. “The ability our students will gain to recognize, communicate, and manage change will mean early and evident value for future employers,” Brown says.

Kavajecz cites donor gifts as the primary source of financial support for Consurtio. Non-financial shares unofficially recognized by the Securities and Exchange Commission and officially recognized as gifts by the IRS will be issued to donors to create a sense of ownership and continued engagement. One share will be given to each Whitman graduate who participates in the firm.

The University has earmarked a portion of its endowment to help finance Consurtio operational costs. Chancellor Kent Syve­rud himself was an early client. He sponsored a pilot project and saw firsthand the value of Consurtio both to students and clients. “The work of the Whitman students on a business plan for the Minnowbrook Conference Center rivaled some of the best I have seen,” he says.

Goldman Sachs Vice President Mike Kenworthy shared similar sentiments about the students who completed a pilot project for his firm involving Madison Square Garden (MSG). The students were asked to review a potential breakup of MSG’s sports, entertainment, and media segments into separate companies and present their findings and recommendations. “I could not have been more impressed with the depth of analysis, thoroughly developed recommendations, and hard work the students put forth,” he says.

Whitman finance professor Jim Seward served as faculty mentor for the Goldman project. “From the start, Professor Seward’s message was to make our proposal our own, stand by it, and be confident with our recommendations,” says Dylan Weinberger ’16, one of four finance majors selected for the team. “He guided us in formulating a clear and concise story and prepared us for potential questions and roadblocks we might encounter while presenting. The industry knowledge and universally applicable skills we developed truly illustrate the value of experiential learning.”

The name Consurtio was derived from the Latin word meaning partnership, and Kavajecz says that is the essence of the venture. “It brings together a number of partners to create a transformative learning opportunity,” he says. “Students are better prepared, professors are able to marry curriculum with practical experience, and companies get problems solved and employees who make an immediate impact. Everybody wins in this construct.” —Alison Kessler