Kelley Correspondent: Kelley’s Most Innovative (And Challenging) Classes

When I first came to Kelley, I was a bit overwhelmed by the number of majors offered (12 majors and six co-majors), but I quickly realized that the set-up of the curriculum allows for a broad exploration of business topics early in your B-school journey. This pushes students to discover the many facets of business (marketing, finance, operations, analytics, and management to name a few) and then narrow down their interests as they approach the second half of their Kelley careers. I, for instance, came to Kelley thinking I would study finance and management. After just a couple semesters on campus, I realized that I was far more interested in economics and data analysis, so I decided to pursue the finance and economic consulting majors with a co-major in business analytics.

Now, looking back on my Kelley journey, there are three classes that have stood out as extraordinarily innovative, challenging, and beneficial. These include Game Theory (BUS-G303), a hands-on consulting course co-managed by students and faculty called ‘Crimson Consulting’, and the Capstone in Economic Consulting (BUS-G400). Together, these classes push students to ask better questions, challenge us to grow as business professionals, and teaches us how to deal with the harsh reality of ambiguity.


I took Game Theory with Professor Michael Rauh during the second semester of my sophomore year, and I still insist that it is the toughest class I’ve taken in business school. Professor Rauh lectures with clarity and entertains the class with bidding auctions and game theoretic puzzles; however, he isn’t into the frilly participation or homework points that many other professors provide as a buffer. Rather, the course is 16 weeks of hardcore game theory split into three exams each worth a third of your final grade. Thus, there’s not a lot of room for test-taking error. That said, this teaching style pushes students to fully understand the material. Exams were all open-ended questions, and I had to fight tooth and nail to receive a high grade at the end of the semester. The experience was certainly challenging, but I learned a lot about game theory’s applications in the business world and became a stronger analytical thinker.


These critical thinking skills came in handy during my involvement in co-founding and leading the first Crimson Consulting course, which is the next class that I would highlight due to its innovative style. I helped start Crimson Consulting at the end of my sophomore year with Professors Keith Dayton and Tatiana Kolovou (pictured here discussing Crimson Consulting’s progress since its inception during my sophomore year). Our mission was to create an experimental course at Kelley to allow both MBA and undergraduate students to do hands-on consulting projects with local business owners.

The course provides some initial training sessions on client communication, data analysis, and workflow management to prepare students for their engagements. Then, teams of one to two MBA candidates and three to four Kelley undergraduates work with local entrepreneurs to provide business research and recommendations for the business to improve. For example, one team assisted a local food truck with branding and target marketing while another team worked with a local leather goods producer to research different options for its pricing model. Each semester, 25 or more students receive the opportunity to work in this innovative teaching approach where they are assessed not by exams, but instead by client satisfaction, real-world analysis, and strong communication skills.


Lastly, there’s a capstone course that I am currently taking with Professor Michael Baye (pictured above discussing the challenges of this semester’s first engagement). It provides another unique way to prepare students studying economic consulting for the real world. Professor Baye, a renowned managerial economist, was inspired to create this course at Kelley nearly 10 years ago after returning from a two-year appointment as the Chief Economist at the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. He told my class that during his time at the FTC he had an intern from a top business school that could not deal with ambiguous questions and tasks that undoubtedly come up in the real world. So, upon returning to the Kelley School after his leave of absence at the FTC, Professor Baye started teaching this course to seniors majoring in Economic Consulting.

The course is structured to make students feel like we’re working at a true economic consulting firm. For the first few weeks, we learn about our new employer, ‘Kelley Research Associates’, and hear stories about our boss-to-be, ‘Joe Ferone’. To answer the questions that you’re probably wondering… yes, Professor Baye transforms into Joe Ferone and wears a custom-made KRA Polo that he ordered just for this class. After the first phase of the course, we’re split into teams of eight students with four designated as ‘senior associates’ and four as ‘junior associates.’ Then, we are tasked with an ambiguous engagement on economic or antitrust policy and given a few weeks to provide Joe with our deliverables — even though he doesn’t specify the exact format of them and only gives us the assignment verbally as to create realistic ambiguity. The course truly pushes us outside of our comfort zones and gives us a taste of the types of situations we will face upon graduating as we enter the real world. As my ‘senior associate’ from our first engagement this semester, Lauren Schingel, says, “Everything in the course is meticulously planned to simulate a real working environment. And while we will all be stepping into the workforce as ‘junior associates’ or an equivalent title, it was great to experience a senior role in which I could practice delegating tasks and reviewing others’ materials, which I later presented to our boss with assistance from the ‘junior associates’ that did much of the analysis.”

As you can see, Kelley faculty design challenging, innovative curricula that provide students with an array of classroom and real-world experiences. Even though many courses can be challenging and ambiguous, I know that I will be prepared to step into the business world and start my career at McKinsey & Company.


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