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Accelerator 2021 Immerses Students in Virtual Learning and Real-World Consulting

Jul 16, 2021
This year, Accelerator offered flexible business education and real-world consulting experience

By Heream Yang

Jon Lehman

Accelerator® Virtual Business Immersion at Vanderbilt is a certificate program offering college students and recent graduates across the country the opportunity to build their business knowledge and engage in a real-world consulting project. This year marked the second year of virtual learning due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The program offers 2 unique tracks, Leading Virtual Teams and Business Essentials, with the option to participate in both. Leading Virtual Teams is a weeklong experience immersing students in a real-world consulting engagement, while Business Essentials is a self-paced program offering approximately 25 hours of fundamental business knowledge.

“After years of Accelerator being an in-person experience, it continues to amaze me that we can still teach students how to operate effectively in teams, problem-solve efficiently and communicate their recommendations in a clear and compelling way to their client,” said Jon Lehman, the Director of Accelerator. “The pace was intense, but students worked hard and gained experience that prepared themselves exceptionally well for potential business careers.”

The Accelerator Virtual Experience: 

After a year of Zoom calls and virtual school, both students and faculty were well-equipped to navigate the online learning environment. Deftly navigating time zone differences and new software platforms, Accelerator students made the most out of their virtual experience. “The virtual format was very seamless and easy to maneuver,” said Mary Butler (Sewanee: The University of the South, 2022), a participant in this year’s Virtual Business Immersion. “Having already been accustomed to Zoom, Slack was the only program I was unfamiliar with, but I thought it was very easy to understand how to utilize its interface. Meeting people over Zoom isn’t the most ideal situation, but I still made connections with the people in my group that will last a long time.”

The Project:

At the beginning of the week, teams were tasked with refining the market rollout strategy for DeliverEnd, an early stage company that offers safe, convenient delivery solutions for digital marketplace transactions on platforms like Facebook Marketplace. Accelerator teams formulated strategies for targeting and communicating DeliverEnd services to drivers, buyers, and sellers across various online marketplaces. By conducting interviews and market research, the teams successfully formulated strategic recommendations to optimize DeliverEnd’s national launch. 

“We had an excellent experience with the Vanderbilt Accelerator program,” said Becky Shaver, Senior Manager, Marketing at DeliverEnd. “We were continuously blown away by the questions the students asked us – they were clearly thinking deeply and really rising to the challenge we presented. With the final presentations, choosing a winner turned out to be much harder than we expected, because all the solutions were fantastic. My team and I had to use rank order voting to sort it out since we all saw such great value and insight from all the teams. In fact, we are folding some of their suggestions into our plans as we continue our national launch.”

Student Feedback:

From English to Economics majors, students from a diverse variety of academic backgrounds built their business skills and experience through Accelerator® Virtual Business Immersion. 

“The best part of Accelerator was the fact that Vanderbilt was able to obtain a real-life client for us to do a case study on,” said Joseph Angella (Vanderbilt University, 2024). “Many times, when doing case studies, I feel like I fail to make the real-life connection from a case study in a textbook to the actual business world, but receiving feedback from a client that actually exists not only allowed me to unlock the thought process of a real-life case study, but also gave me the opportunity to receive excellent feedback from actual business marketers, which I feel will prove to be very valuable in future case studies and as I progress down my career path and studies in business settings.” 

“My favorite part about Accelerator was getting to work with such knowledgeable and helpful faculty,” said Sarah Cherry (Louisiana State University, 2022).  Most of the concepts we learned about during the week were completely new to me, so having instructors that were willing to answer questions and give us extra guidance when needed contributed significantly to our success as a group and to my satisfaction with the overall Accelerator experience.” 

“The thing I enjoyed most about Accelerator was getting to meet new people… all of my teammates were really great!” said Paige Elliott (Vanderbilt University, 2024). “It was also really cool to get some legitimate beginner consulting experience and then have our final products reviewed by a real company that might put them into practice.”

Accelerator Summer Business Immersion returns with a 3-week, in-person experience in June 2022.

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