The Graphite Group expands opportunities for students

Students involved with the Graphite Group
November 16, 2022

As a member of the Graphite Group at Claremont McKenna College, Matthew San Luis ’23 has worked on three consulting projects, led talent acquisition efforts, and secured an internship with Apple. This past summer, the economics major following the data science sequence, began a new leadership role with the student-run consulting group. As senior managing director, he oversees the group’s operations and initiatives with junior managing director Aryaman Jaiswal ’24, a computer science and economics major.

As the consulting arm of the Randall Lewis Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (RLCIE), the Graphite Group specializes in helping startups and small businesses more effectively achieve their strategic goals by developing professional solutions for their biggest challenges, such as product development, business growth, and market entry.

“The Graphite Group and other consulting groups on campus are really popular,” San Luis said. “They provide ways for students to get involved in general business roles that teach them how to be better problem solvers and critical thinkers.”

The 12-week projects typically involve analytics, strategy, design, marketing, or operations. Since its inception in 2018, the group has completed more than 25 projects, partnering with clients in nine sectors, including education, health care, and financial services, across the nation. Members typically number around 30 and work in teams of 4 or 5. Last spring, 32 members worked on seven projects, including strategies to enhance a destination resort’s shoulder season business, gamification of the crypto and NFT space, and digitizing the restaurant industry.

Last year, San Luis was on a team that worked with a local non-profit whose goal was to help small businesses struggling as a result of the pandemic. The team conducted interviews and gathered data on the areas where businesses most needed help. Another team of students with expertise in UI/UX (user interface/user experience) design helped a company with the creation of an app. “Our level of involvement with each company really depends on what the company wants and what our capabilities are at that time,” San Luis said.

In addition to commercial enterprises, the group looks for projects with social impact. For example, the Graphite Group worked with the Inland Empire-based Cooperative Economic Empowerment Movement (CEEM) to brainstorm creative ways to support Black entrepreneurs.

Professional development is also part of the package. The Graphite Group has compiled and continues to develop various resources like case libraries, interview prep materials, and recommendations for podcasts, books, and 5C classes.

The group also maintains an internship database on companies where members have interned, such as BlackRock, Meta, and Bain & Company. Upperclassmen and alumni are always willing to help students seeking similar internships. That’s how San Luis got his summer internship with Apple’s finance development program. The alumna who had been there before him shared her contacts and advice, and even conducted mock interviews with him.

Under the auspices of the RLCIE since 2020, the group has received institutional support for professional development, industry mentors, training, sourcing projects, and implementing initiatives. For one of the most recent initiatives, RLCIE enabled the group to pay its consultants for the first time. “And the general mentorship and advice that leadership provides the group has been really valuable,” San Luis said of Darren Filson, director and James G. Boswell Professor of Economics, and Ron LaPierre, executive director and entrepreneur in residence.

This semester, San Luis is establishing a mentorship program, pairing upperclassmen with new recruits and connecting all members beyond their working group. He also envisions a networking series that taps into the group’s alumni, an accomplished cohort with careers at such companies as McKinsey & Company, Microsoft, Boston Consulting Group, Deloitte, KPMG, and Accenture. “Now that our alumni base is growing, we want to start to bring in former members to share career and life advice on a weekly or biweekly basis,” he said.

Consultants represent a variety of majors, from economics, finance, public policy, and data science to computer science, math, and neuroscience. “We don’t just focus on recruiting one major. We really value that diversity of thought,” San Luis said. “During the interview process, we also look for people across the Claremont Colleges who are willing to take on future leadership and pass on what they’ve learned.”

San Luis noted that’s part of what makes the Graphite Group special. “The best part of my experience is the people. Past leadership really fostered a great culture where everyone supports each other’s well-being and success. The network you build in college is really important, and I’ll take my Graphite Group network with me post-college.”

Direct philanthropic support of the Graphite Group and the Randall Lewis Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship represents your investment in the Campaign for CMC: Responsible Leadership.  CMC’s Research Centers and Institutes are a critical aspect of the Honor Mission pillar of the campaign.

 

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