Impact Consulting Fellowship



University of Maryland - College Park
Organizations/areas of the university involved

Center for Social Value Creations, UMD Alumni Relations, MBA Dean, UMD Admissions

united states

The Impact Consulting Fellowship is an experiential program where teams consisting of MBA, Doctoral, Masters, and Undergraduate students work collaboratively to provide pro-bono consulting services to impact-driven organizations.

In May 2020 after news that the COVID-19 pandemic would countermand many internships, Robert H. Smith School of Business students needed a new direction. How would they continue to grow their skill sets and become more transformative leaders? The thought was pressing for our Smith community, but an actionable plan to innovatively answer these concerns during these trying times was yet to exist. In a series of ideation sessions with faculty, students, and other campus wide partners, the Center for Social Value Creation (CSVC) found that students wanted experiential learning opportunities that would drive impactful changes in our community. This insight informed the creation of the Impact Consulting Fellowship (ICF).

Now in its third iteration, ICF is an inclusive program for all University of Maryland students; MBA, Doctoral, Masters, and Undergraduate. The goal of the fellowship is to expose students to ethical and impact-driven businesses and organizations that operate for the benefit of people, planet, and profit as opposed to profit alone. ICF also enables students to take the skills gained in the classroom and apply them to real-life challenges in order to make a meaningful impact on the community. In the inaugural iteration of the fellowship program, we had participation from approximately 100 students, 23 alumni advisors, and 23 clients. Now, nearly a year later, we’ve grown to nearly 300 students and 45 alumni advisors providing a total of nearly 30,000 hours of pro-bono consulting services to 44 impact-driven companies and organizations both nationwide and around the world. As we continue to grow and expand, we are confident that ICF will be a staple program in the business school, as well as in the broader UMD community. Additionally, our CSVC staff have created an all-inclusive handbook that provides step-by-step instructions on how other institutions can replicate ICF and create their own impact-driven experiential consulting program. In doing this, we hope to see ICF cohorts created and thriving in universities across the country, with a unified goal of educating students on sustainable development and ethical business practices, as well as engaging our communities and supporting local business development.

Results and impact measured or expected

In the three iterations of ICF to date, we have had nearly 300 student participants (with representation from all academic levels and disciplines of the Robert H. Smith School of Business, along with additional representation from Computer Science, Engineering, Public Policy, and Journalism). These students were supported by 45 industry professional consulting advisors, and ultimately provided nearly 30,000 hours of pro-bono consulting to 44 impact-driven companies and organizations across the nation and abroad. Through ICF, our students have had the opportunity to work on a broad range of projects, from financial modeling and data forecasting, running crowdfunding campaigns, working with multiple branches of local government offices, creating expansion plans for rural farmers, and much more. ICF’s greatest strength is in its versatility; students are able to choose which projects interest them most, and what specific fields they’d prefer to work in.

Connection with the SDG framework

At CSVC, we ensure that all our programs are themed around at least one of the seventeen United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. In a time with so much uncertainty, it was essential that CSVC engage students in a way that made them think positively about the challenges of our changed world. In keeping with the center’s mission to create a better world through business, participants of the Impact Consulting Fellowship engaged with all 17 SDGs and garnered a sense of responsibility for our shared community through their client work. In our Summer 2020 iteration of ICF, one of our clients was the United Nations Foundation’s Nothing But Nets, a global campaign to raise awareness and funding to fight malaria, a leading cause of death among children in Africa. This single project encompassed goals 3 (Good Health and Well Being), 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation), and 17 (Partnerships for the Goal).

Barriers and follow up

ICF is one of the few campus-wide extracurricular programs at UMD that makes it possible for International Student participation, which has come with certain unique challenges (along with numerous benefits). It benefits students to work in cross-cultural teams and adapt to others’ working styles, as well as gain knowledge of international business practices. However, approximately 30% of the International Students across all three ICF iterations have been located in their home country. Coordinating across time zones for meetings, development sessions, and/or workshops can be a challenging task. However, technology has made it exponentially easier to adapt. For example, we now opt to record all our meetings and add them to a shared drive for any students who can’t attend. We’ve found that all our students are excited and enthused about this experiential learning experience, and typically willing and able to adapt quickly to the difficult time differences.

Transferability of the initiative

Before we had even wrapped the first iteration of the Impact Consulting Fellowship in the Summer of 2020, we knew we wanted to help other institutions create a similar impact. Why just stop at Smith or the UMD community? Why not inspire other institutions to create their own consulting-based experiential learning program to enrich both their students internally and the overall community externally? Our response was the creation of our Impact Consulting Fellowship handbook, a step-by-step guide to planning and executing a program exactly like ICF. Within the handbook, we even included several application, email, and workshop templates to ease the transfer of knowledge. We hope that, by sharing our resources, we see a rise in ICF cohorts created and thriving in universities across the country, with a unified goal of educating students on sustainable development and ethical business practices, as well as engaging our communities and supporting business development.