IMAGE:  October 2002 GRAPHIC:  University of Chicago Magazine
Volume 95, Issue 1
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Morning and melancholia 
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End of the Medical Marathon?
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3 rms, future vu


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GRAPHIC:  Campus NewsCollege Report

Student group learns business mindset

What was immediately striking about the Chicago students and alumni gathered on the B-school side of Harper Library one rainy Saturday morning this spring was their professionalism. Shortly before the Eckhart Consulting (EC) student group convened for its first working meeting, Kevin Kimmerling, AB'01, and fellow Deloitte Consulting analyst Brian Karlsson, AB'01, chatted briefly about the brain flash that launched EC.

While volunteering as an alumni adviser to the College's Mock Trial team, Kimmerling was frustrated by how much time the group wasted with its disorganized approach to logistics. Buying office supplies, for example, or arranging travel for out-of-town tournaments was always left to the last minute. "One day it hit me: this is a clear opportunity to get other students involved," Kimmerling explains. "We could have a student group come in and fix our problems."

What Mock Trial participants desperately needed, Kimmerling realized, were outside consultants to streamline their logistical processes, "so they could concentrate on what they do best: competing."

And if Mock Trial could use these services, Kimmerling suspected, other student groups could too. He called his brother, Kurt Kimmerling, SB'02, then a fourth-year, and suggested forming a consulting group; Kurt pitched the idea to several friends. The chance to add practical experience to their résumés was a strong draw for students facing the worst job market in years. About ten students signed on.

For Kevin and Karlsson, the group was a way to mentor students aspiring to go into business. "We're still in touch with the problems student groups are dealing with," Karlsson says, "but we also know what it's like to be thrown into a consulting experience, because it just happened to us."

Kevin agrees: "We can teach them it's a confidence issue, that you don't have to know everything about a client's problem; what you need most to succeed is common sense."

The group met in Eckhart Hall (hence its name) to decide which services were in demand among student organizations, settling on four "product groups": marketing, budgetary, membership, and strategic and organizational consulting. They established a corporate-like structure, with Kevin and Karlsson as "partners," providing big-picture counsel, and Kurt and Michael Tyree, '03, as "directors," managing projects and running the group. Other students became consultants, with positions open for two assistant directors and two "professional development planners," who help consultants chart their personal career paths with Eckhart. Positions are filled via an application-and-interview process. Consultants' work is evaluated on their strategy, project-management, and sales skills.

After Eckhart spread the word about its services, three clients stepped forward: a fraternity seeking to spruce up its campus image, an elected body needing budget assistance, and Mock Trial. (Clients are promised confidentiality; Mock Trial agreed to be in the Magazine's report.)

At the April meeting ten consultants were assigned to projects, and the groups broke up to strategize. "At the end of the day you should meet three goals," Kurt instructed his cohorts: "understand your clients' problems, when you'll be ready to sit down with your client, and what solutions you'll provide. Your consultations will be in the seventh or eighth week. Between now and then you'll do your research and gather materials."

Kevin, on the Mock Trial project, reeled off the group's needs: in addition to travel and office-supply purchasing processes, the group wanted help managing its budget, creating the perception that it's "the" academic team on campus, and instituting a more communicative team environment. He looked around the table. "Maybe someone should write this stuff down!" The students scrambled for pen and paper. "Now. What can we tackle?"

While the confidentiality agreements prevent revealing more specific details, Eckhart's inaugural members hope students returning to campus this autumn notice a fraternity that's slightly more polished, an elected body with a better handle on its funds, and a Mock Trial team that's not only successful but also efficient.

This year, under Tyree as managing director, Eckhart intends to work with the Office of the Reynolds Club and Student Activities on a leadership seminar. It has also agreed to help Career and Placement Services run informational sessions on management consulting. "The group's purpose is still the same, but its scope is much wider," Tyree says. "EC is going to do some great things this year."
- Sharla A. Stewart





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