Investing in Students’ Experiential Learning is a Win-Win

9.18.2023 Alumni News
Photo of people in the article

Alumni Alfred Williams (MSM ‘11), senior director, PepsiCo Beverages North America, and Danielle Penturf Lamphier (MBA ‘96), vice president, Atrium Health, found that investing in students’ experiential learning is a win-win. Both Atrium and PepsiCo have sponsored graduate consulting projects where teams of business students partnered to provide fresh insights from a Gen Z perspective. Danielle reflects, “Investing in them is investing in yourself and all business school alumni.”

Carrie: For your company, what was the most valuable part of the Graduate Consulting Project (GCP) program?

Alfred: It was truly valuable for PepsiCo to get insights from fresh eyes. After you’ve been in an industry for a decade, the ability to consistently foster fresh ideas can fade. When you have the opportunity to connect with students who are in the early phase of their career journey, their enthusiasm helps you stay creative.

Danielle: The most valuable part was the fresh perspective and thinking that was grounded in the knowledge of our industry. For the last two years, we have sponsored projects; nearly all of the students on our teams have had an acute interest in healthcare. They cared deeply about the work of the projects and also looked at the challenges in a new way. Some students also brought updated technical skills that enabled them to be more efficient in how they tackled or approached certain challenges.

Carrie: For you personally, what was the most valuable part (or what did you enjoy most) from the GCP experience?

Alfred: Personally, I don’t like social media. The graduate team’s feedback around our marketing opportunities was heavily focused on social media and the impact it has on the younger generations. It essentially forced me to take a step back and look in the mirror. I had to digest that I am headed towards career extinction if I am not willing to adapt to where the business is going!

Danielle: Getting to know the students was enjoyable. We have had three fantastic, engaged, professional groups of students, many of whom members of my leadership team and I have stayed in contact with via LinkedIn or through periodic lunches. Two team members from our first team now work for Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist. We are always delighted to provide a reference! This year, a team produced one of the best project briefs we had ever received, even when compared to outside vendors who have done similar work with us for years. Our Atrium leaders enjoyed celebrating that win, as well as the excellent work on the overall projects.

Carrie: Explain the commitment. What was required of you as a professional to participate, particularly in terms of time, expertise and mentorship?

Alfred: Overall, there was a bi-weekly time commitment. I found there was a need to share expertise, as the students needed some understanding of the internal expectations of our company.

Danielle: While I did not directly lead the teams we have sponsored in the last several years, my responsibility was to ensure the leadership team had the capacity to lead and mentor the project team. Our leaders held a two-hour kick-off meeting with the team and all project stakeholders. Then, we ensured the stakeholders were available for follow-up questions. After that, our leaders met with the project team approximately once a week for an hour to check-in, answer questions, provide direction and guidance.

Carrie: Were there any pleasant surprises that you did not anticipate when you committed to hosting a team project?

Alfred: No real surprises. I honestly think the process was exactly what we anticipated.

Danielle: We were impressed by the fresh, diverse thinking and high level of engagement of the teams we worked with. The students themselves were smart and delightful team players.

Carrie: What was the biggest takeaway?

Alfred: Personally, my biggest takeaway was the fact that I may not be doing enough self-reflection.
Danielle: My department has sponsored three teams in the past few years. We now have several Atrium leaders hoping that their project will be selected so they can sponsor another Wake Forest business school team in the near future.

Carrie: Would you recommend the GCP to other alumni who need fresh perspectives on a company challenge?

Alfred: Yes! I think it is not only an advantage for the students, but it also gives the company an opportunity to field some valuable feedback that can help to improve the business.

Danielle: Absolutely! You will have a chance to evaluate potential talent for your future team and feel confident about the next generation of leaders. The success of these students increases the value of all of our Wake Forest School of Business degrees, so investing in them is investing in yourself and all business school alumni.

If your organization has a problem or issue that you’ve frequently wanted to address, it may be a great candidate for a graduate consulting project. To learn more or discuss a project for consideration, contact Angie Lynde, Senior Associate Director of Experiential Education, at with questions.