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Experiential Learning Center

Projects ~ 2010


Since 1936, Government Employees Insurance Company (GEICO) has focused on providing low-cost, high quality insurance. With over eight million auto policyholders and insuring more than 12 million vehicles, GEICO is now the fastest growing auto insurer in the U.S., and is currently the third largest private passenger auto insurer in the nation. GEICO, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, also enjoys the highest ratings in the industry for financial strength and claims-paying ability, including an AAA rating from Standard and Poor's, AAA from Moody's and A++ from A.M. Best.

GEICO asked an ELC team of students to research and develop a policy manual and video on the "Do's and Don'ts of Your First Job" in order to get promoted and launch a successful career. The ELC team conducted focus groups, primary and secondary job market research, and other methods to understand the best practices and skill development needed to make the most of "new career" employees' first few years in the real life business world.


McDonald's is one of the world's most well-known and valuable brands. With 31,000 restaurants in 118 countries, McDonald's serves over 50 million people each day. McDonald's USA is currently exploring the feasibility of facilitating access to Adult Basic Education courses (including the GED preparation) for restaurant employees. The goal of the initiative is to increase the employee transition to post-secondary studies. Because of the restaurant employees' demanding schedules, McDonald's was assuming that the flexibility of instructor-led online programs would best encourage and support the employee's success.

McDonald's tasked an ELC team to analyze and make recommendations on the best approaches for ease of deployment, proven benefits, reasonable costs, and reliable measures to best execute this type of massive training effort. The ELC team analyzed significant measures such as student persistence rates, impact of technology literacy, and the impact of employer sponsored programs on student results. The team also conducted secondary research on relevant adult basic education practices of relevant literature.


SUPERVALU® (Jewel-Osco) is a leader in the grocery retailing industry. They are a grocery and pharmacy company serving a wide range of customers in neighborhoods nationwide, through stores ranging from hard discount to traditional and premium grocery formats. SUPERVALU reaches millions of families with the products and services they need through owned, licensed, franchised and affiliated stores.

Supervalu asked an ELC team to conduct an analysis on their organic selection throughout the store, researching to see if the organic section was too big, too small, did not have the right products, etc. They asked the team to compare the results to the national trend and to their competitors.

Caterpillar Inc.

Caterpillar asked an ELC team to explore the ways to leverage the information of the system that collects data within each Large Wheel Loader machine they sell as it related to the product life cycle in order to increase parts and service growth. Utilizing systems already built into machines that collect machine data and establish trends, similar to GM's "ON-Star" system, CAT was given recommendations to create value messages for the voice of the machine. This project defined the voice of the machine for product health, maintenance, and life cycle/repair solutions to foster the parts and sales growth of Large Wheel Loaders.

Illinois Dermatology Institute

The Illinois Dermatology Institute is a group of practicing dermatologists in the Chicagoland area. This practice commissioned an ELC team to devise a robust and full scale marketing strategy that included a web site strategy that was user friendly with minimal "behind the scenes" work for the practice. Also, included in this strategy was the analysis and recommendation for an e-commerce platform on dermatological product suggestions and recommendations. In addition, the team provided a business plan and strategies on brand awareness and indentified marketing channels that would expand retail sales and build patient volume, providing a return on investment.


ServiceLive.com is the only online services marketplace where customers can either name their price or request bids for service from thousands of pre-screened service providers. Founded in 2007 as a wholly owned subsidiary of Sears Holdings Corporation, ServiceLive, Inc. has recruited and background checked the best service providers in the country across a wide variety of home services - from handymen and home electronics pros to plumbers and computer experts. Now thousands of ServiceLive-Approved service providers are part of an on-demand workforce ready to ease the headaches of managing services. Buyers simply select pre-screened service providers; describe their project and name the date and time; and either request bids, or name their own price for service. The whole transaction is managed online with an easy-to-use tool. From provider selection and order fulfillment to ratings and payment, ServiceLive is how 'to-do' is done today.

ServiceLive is looking to expand internationally and asked an ELC team to develop recommendations and strategies for entrance into international markets. The team analyzed trends in global services (construction / housing / repair / maintenance) markets, reviewed regulatory requirements and potential barriers to entry and recommended markets best suited for ServiceLive's growth plans. The analysis considered localization of offerings, an evaluation of key competitors and service fulfillment practices already established in chosen markets, and identified potential partnerships that could enable this venture.

Rockford Area Realtors

Rockford Area Realtors is a 501c6 taxpaying non-profit trade association with approximately 1000 members engaged in real estate transactions, real estate development and service to the industry. Members are associated with Brokers but are independent entrepreneurs. RAR is a member of Illinois Association of Realtors and National Association of Realtors which is one of the largest and most influential trade associations in Washington DC. RAR operates under the direction of a 12 member Board of Directors, a Chief Executive Officer and full time staff.

RAR owns and maintains their Multiple Listing Service (MLS) system, which is uncommon in the industry. RAR staff programmers are currently rewriting and programming the MLS system with a new look, feel and feature upgrades. RAR asked a team of ELC students to conduct a feasibility study to investigate the market potential for this MLS product bundle throughout the US that RAR has developed internally. This included directly contacting association executives to gather current market data and beginning a database of potential customers, uncovering the likes and dislikes of current products being used along with any feature enhancements that might improve their MLS system. Based on this information, the team also developed business recommendations, a product/service value proposition, go to market recommendations and strategy for the RAR MLS system.


Tellabs Operations, Inc. designs and manufactures telecommunications equipment for service providers. We help customers succeed through innovation. That's why 41 of the top 50 global telecom service providers choose our mobile backhaul, optical networking and business services solutions. We help telecom service providers, independent operating companies, MSO/cable TV companies, enterprises and government agencies get ahead by adding revenue, reducing expenses and optimizing networks.

Tellabs innovations have helped our customers offer telecommunication solutions that enable a lifestyle that requires flexible, reliable connections at home, at work and everywhere in between. Workers who rely on these solutions in their personal lives now expect to use these same solutions in the workplace, and to be able to seamlessly manage their work and personal lives on common devices, applications and networks. Tellabs tasked an ELC team to analyze current trends in the consumerization of technology, and how these trends would impact the workplace (including IT departments) in the coming years. The ELC team examined the viewpoints of traditional IT, other business functions, the emerging workforce, other companies and technology service providers, and provided recommendations on how our IT strategy should evolve to accommodate these trends in the coming years.

Northern Illinois Economic Development Organizations

The goal of the Northern Illinois Economic Development Organizations and Northern Illinois University Outreach is to improve living standards and create economic opportunities for the region. These organizations have overseen billions of dollars in industrial and commercial investment, which spurred parallel growth in both employment and the tax base.

The undersigned organizations asked an ELC team to develop a marketing plan that would promote, build awareness, and market the DeKalb/Rochelle/Rockford Region area of Northern Illinois as an Advanced Technological Corridor. The ELC team developed a marketing plan that identified and documented the unique resources and advantages of the areas served by the Northern Illinois Technology Triangle (NITT) and NIUnet. The marketing report delineated specifications on the capabilities of telecommunications technology and other infrastructure resources in the region, i.e. airports, fiber/Internet 2 loop, diverse labor force, educational programs and business relationships, interstate access, etc.

The marketing plan targeted business and industry to build and relocate facilities. The deliverables included printed and electronic marketing material and a detailed plan to build awareness of the region and the technologies and infrastructure it offers. Specific technology and financial service companies that should be targeted for recruitment to our region were identified.

Supporting Organizations:

  • DeKalb County Economic Development Corporation
  • Growth Dimensions of Belvedere and Boone County
  • Northern Illinois University Outreach
  • Rochelle Economic Development
  • Rockford AEDC

NIU Department of Accountancy

The NIU Department of Accountancy has been ranked among the elite programs in the nation for over 20 years. The faculty has made substantive modifications to its masters in accounting science (MAS) program - and has renamed it the Leadership MAS. Because of this significant programmatic change, the NIU Department of Accountancy requested an ELC team project. The ELC team developed:

  1. A marketing strategy to attract NIU and non-NIU undergraduate students and to expand the Leadership MAS presence nationally.
  2. A brand strategy and graphic identity to be used in all program promotions.
  3. An online strategy to include an interactive web site (videos, blogs, forums, discussions), social media, webinars, search optimization, and analytics.

Additional information about the Department and its programs, faculty, students, and external stakeholders can be found at: www.cob.niu.edu/accy.

The Icon Companies

The Icon Companies is the nation's leading exterior signage and maintenance company. With sales over $100,000,000, Icon is positioned to continue to lead its industries. Historically, Icon has been very strong in the financial, small box retail and corporate industries. Their largest clients are Walgreens, CVS, Bank of America, Chase, Citi, Jiffy Lube & Home Depot

2009 was a year to realign sales, marketing and lead management strategies. Significant strides were made building out the infrastructure. However, Icon felt they had just begun to scratch the surface as far as lead management and sales integration. To that end, Icon tasked an ELC team to examine how to maximize lead management and sales funnel integration strategies and tactics in their B2B selling environment. The team successfully addressed:

  • Internal team organization and systems
  • The proper marketing mix to generate the most effective and qualified leads
  • Additional industries they can be targeting to fuel growth and in what priorities, based on existing manufacturing capabilities and new capabilities which can be added or acquired with minimal capital investment
  • How to most efficiently qualify and monitor the leads into the sales funnel
  • The measurement systems to track the Sales Team activity and hit ratios and how to report these results back to the Executive Team and Board

Living Well Resource Center sponsored by McKesson Corporate Foundation

Living Well Cancer Resource Center, located in Geneva, IL, is a place in the Fox Valley where people living with cancer, their families and friends, can go for the information and encouragement to live well while living with cancer. The organization asked an ELC team to create a public relations/ promotion strategy that would include an online component and be scalable and repeatable. The ELC team successfully delivered!

Yum! Brands

Yum! Brands, Inc., based in Louisville, Ky., has more than 36,000 restaurants in over 110 countries and territories and more than 1 million associates. Yum! is ranked #239 on the Fortune 500 List, with revenues in excess of $11 billion in 2008. Four Yum! restaurant brands - KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and Long John Silver's - are the global leaders of the chicken, pizza, Mexican-style food and quick-service seafood categories. Yum! requested an ELC team to conduct a full review of Yum's disclosures (Earnings Releases, Earnings Conference Calls, 10Ks/Qs, Investor Presentations, website, etc.) and compare the disclosures to other global consumer companies to identify "best practices" in the industry. The ELC team successfully researched and provided recommendations on how to improve disclosure to investors and communicate Yum's global growth story more effectively.

Previous Projects