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Our next endeavor is to create a magazine that highlights the impact Foster makes on the businesses and students we serve.
- Ash Arora
President, Business Impact Group
I am lucky to have a joyful mission: channeling the University of Washington's student talent toward the success of small businesses. And thanks to the incredible students who join us every quarter, we are able to make a tangible impact. Depending on the year, we might receive nearly one hundred applications per quarter, select and train over one hundred students per year, and serve more than twenty local small businesses.
This year, our leadership team has embarked on a transformation of the organization: redesigning our program structure, expanding our program portfolio, and elevating the student experience. As we enter the second quarter of our efforts, I want to share an update on our progress and thoughts on our steps ahead.
We are redesigning our program structure to deliver deeper and more actionable recommendations to clients. First, we established a Project Management Office to directly oversee projects, providing significantly more hands-on leadership for individual engagements. Second, we deployed project management tools and created a new two-day training for project managers. Greater organization and collaboration have allowed us to expand the scope of our projects, while improving and standardizing the quality of work. Thanks to a template library introduced in October, our deliverables have also become more consistent, although there is more work to be done.
We have elevated the ability of our consultants to deliver solutions. First, we launched the BIG Case Challenge in October: instead of a traditional interview, invited students analyzed a dataset and simple business challenge, developed a solution, and presented it. Candidates gained a crash course in business analysis, while focusing evaluation on candidates' problem-solving abilities. And by de-emphasizing prior knowledge of consulting terms, the Challenge also supports our new "whole-community" recruiting approach that has drawn record applicant numbers lately, including from non-traditional business backgrounds. Second, we have launched an in-person program training and developed a new resource library with training documents on business strategy.
I am particularly excited about our new 360-degree feedback & evaluation program. Consultants and PMs now meet halfway through the six-week program for feedback, with detailed formal evaluations at the end of the program. We also want to recognize consultants for outstanding performance. In Fall Quarter, we introduced the Quarterly Award for consultants who have made an outstanding impact for their clients.
We are also expanding our contributions to the wider community. Our new Business Research Program is developing findings on small business and ESG issues. Launched with 13 students this fall, the program has already mobilized students to interview practitioners from small businesses and Fortune 500 companies alike, in order to generate meaningful insights on finance, marketing, and supply chain issues. I look forward to the publication of the first set of reports this winter quarter.
We are widening organizational engagement by establishing a professional Advisory Board. Our alumni initiative is expanding our connections to alumni through social media groups, and we will launch "alumni chats" this quarter. We believe that these efforts and our work to promote a "one organization" culture—team activities were moved in-person this quarter, and we held two in-person, whole-organization events in Fall Quarter: the first since the 2019-2020 academic year—will elevate professional opportunities and the quality of the consultant experience.
Our work in each of these areas will accelerate in Winter Quarter. We will be laser-focused on further improving the quality of the solutions we deliver to clients, with an emphasis on implementation and subject-specific knowledge. Our first priority remains delivering better final projects in the Foster Consulting Program. And with student interest at a record high, we are also actively evaluating establishing a third program that will widen our contribution to small businesses.
Our organization may change, but our mission—to help small businesses thrive—does not. In one of my early quarters in the Business Impact Group, one of my advisers casually mentioned that we were serving a business owner who is striving toward his American Dream. That has never escaped me. We know what small business owners put on the line: the grit, passion, sweat and tears it takes to succeed. We are honored to be their partners.
- Phillip Meng
Outgoing President, Business Impact Group
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