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A “Seat at the Table” for Students in the Preparation Initiative


Do you remember the first time that you were encouraged or inspired to pursue your particular career path? A group of 16 students in the Preparation Initiative (PI) recently got the chance to explore the world of consulting. Lauren Clarkson, director of academic success in the Office of Undergraduate Programs, recently led a trek to the Detroit office of McKinsey & Company, which houses a team of more than 20 partners and nearly 200 other colleagues.

“The 2022-2023 Academic Year is the first that students have been able to experience in- person treks since the COVID-19 pandemic began,” Clarkson said. “These visits are extremely valuable for our students, who gain so much insight from going in person to experience potential future career paths.” 

The Preparation Initiative is a learning community designed for U-M undergraduates geared toward, but not limited to, students with minoritized identities who have a demonstrated interest and potential for business leadership but may have had limited previous exposure to rigorous, related coursework. Every year the PI program supports a group of 30-40 first-year students interested in business. The program also supports program “alums,” who are students in their sophomore-senior year as BBA students.

The visit began with a warm welcome for the students, and consisted of networking, professional development sessions, coffee chats, and presentations with partners, including from some Michigan Ross alumni and friends. 

Emily Taylor, MBA/MS ’14, spoke about how her experience as a dual degree holder from Ross and the School for Environment and Sustainability led to her current role as a McKinsey partner. Taylor is an avid environmental enthusiast, who works with clients on sustainability and energy matters. When asked by a student what helped her achieve career success while navigating different industries, Taylor highlighted the importance of having a learner’s mindset, and using “humility and confidence to help facilitate getting to an answer.” 

Proud Ross parents Hans-Werner and Anke Kaas have generously given to the Preparation Initiative and were also in attendance during the visit. Hans-Werner is a senior partner in McKinsey’s Detroit office and has served with the company for more than 30 years. He co-founded the company’s automotive and assembly practice in the Americas and helps direct work across the advanced industries practice. He spoke to PI students about his path from consultant, to project manager, to partner, and about how he advises many of the world’s leading automotive and industrial-machinery companies on growth strategy, operations transformation, performance improvement, and organizational effectiveness.

During the “coffee chats” portion of the visit, students broke out into small groups to hear more in depth from McKinsey employees about their career journeys. Garrett Powell, BBA ’21, business analyst, gave students a glimpse of a day in his life and spoke about his belief that consulting opens doors. He also shared about his work with health insurers to improve patient health outcomes and, in the sustainability world, about facilitating green energy transitions and improving carbon accounting.

The day was capped off by a women in business lunch panel, as well as an interactive communication workshop. PI students especially enjoyed the opportunity to network and speak with individuals at various stages of their careers.

Paige Pierce, '25
Paige Pierce, '25

“This was an incredibly rewarding experience—nothing compares to being able to sit in the same room and build tangible relationships with future employers,” said PI sophomore Paige Pierce, ’25. “I came with questions about the consulting field, and this opportunity gave me answers. The Preparation Initiative gives students like me the resources, connections, and insight to succeed. I’m leaving today with a game plan and newfound confidence. My biggest takeaway from the visit is that this path is possible for me—I have a seat at the table. PI makes it real.”