Helping students excel in the business world
As new grad George Valcarcel ’20 begins working as a business analyst for McKinsey & Company, the experience he gained through Ohio State’s Integrated Business and Engineering (IBE) Honors Program is giving him confidence he’ll succeed in his future consulting career.
“IBE is the best of both worlds, the arts and the science,” the industrial and systems engineering major said. “It’s something that I think will serve me well in the business world, to break down and structure problems with an engineering mindset.”
Like all Buckeye engineering undergraduates, IBE students complete a real-world capstone project before graduation. Valcarcel led a team of five students who worked on a yearlong project for Nexceris, a central Ohio-based energy storage company.
The students analyzed potential growth opportunities for Li-ion Tamer, which monitors the condition of lithium-ion batteries to make large battery systems safer and help prevent fires.
They also created a prototype of an interface that will help technicians install the product in large systems. It involved user experience work, said team member Aaron Penick ’20, such as creating customer personas and user scenarios.
IBE students were the perfect candidates to tackle this project, Valcarcel said, which enabled them to test both their technical and business acumen. “Within engineering, our capstone is unique because we were able to speak to the technology, but also to the business models and emerging trends in the economy and the market.”
The project was also a win for the company, who found so much value from working with IBE students that they’ve signed up to do another one next year.
“We were very impressed with the work product the students delivered, which will become the foundation of some of the development that will follow,” said Nexceris’ Sensors Business Unit Director Steve Cummings, a 2002 chemical engineering alum. “Anytime we can work with a group like this and get something delivered that provides value to us, it’s really a win-win between us and the student group.”
The collaboration also marked the first time an internship was connected to a capstone project. By interning at Nexceris last summer, Penick helped the team overcome their greatest challenge—getting up to speed on the technical product and market.
“It was a really good experience,” the materials science and engineering major said. “Nexceris’ engineers and management have been great mentors and were able to teach us a whole lot about the market and the project.”
But the successful project wouldn’t have happened without the support of chemical engineering alumnus William Dawson ’81. The longtime scholarship donor believes so strongly in the IBE program that he gave $150,000 to create the William and Diane Dawson Engineering Endowment Fund. It supports a real-world, design-build project within IBE.
For the inaugural project, Dawson suggested teaming up with Nexceris, the company he founded in 1994 and remains a member of its advisory board.
“What I loved about the program at Ohio State was combining engineering and business, which I thought could have the most potential impact for supporting companies like mine locally,” he said. “These are some of the brightest students at Ohio State and in our country, and they can have a huge impact.”
Dawson believes the program gives Buckeye engineers a critical advantage.
“I hired a lot of engineers and the students in this group are working at a level that’s equivalent to what most engineers hope to aspire to in five to ten years out of college,” he said. “They’re coming into the workforce with a huge advantage and an amazing education.”
Valcarcel agrees. He found the capstone project provided the perfect opportunity to practice skills he’ll use each day as a management consultant.
“It gave me more confidence that I can learn about a new industry and get the basics down quickly,” he said. “Being able to work on a business-critical problem for a central Ohio company and give back to our home state, in terms of economic development, was a great experience.”
by Candi Clevenger, College of Engineering Communications, firstname.lastname@example.org