A team of students in the Management Consulting capstone course deliver their consultation presentation to the DEI-focused consulting firm, Mikal-Hamlett. Photo courtesy of Dirk Buengel.

Pamplin College of Business Associate Professor of Practice Dirk Buengel wanted to make sure the students in his Management Consulting course received real-world work experience. It is a capstone course, after all, and most of the students in the class would graduate shortly after its completion and head off into the “real world.”

However, according to Buengel, in his most recent iteration of the course, he obtained something greater for – and from – his students.

A team of five students in the Management Consulting capstone course served as a pro bono consulting team for Mikal-Hamlett, a DEI-focused consulting firm dedicated to “helping organizations develop an inclusive company culture that drives growth in all key business objectives.”

“We were able to model a real-life example of improving the human condition,” said Buengel, referencing one of the four Pamplin Pillars. “The students were able to take the topic of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging and fill it with life.”

MGT 4084 Management Consulting

The objectives of the course, part of the Management Consulting and Analytics major within the Department of Management, are as simple as they are broad: develop a growth strategy and organizational development for a company. According to Buengel, it is not accomplished using exams, quizzes, or textbooks.

Instead, it is done via a team of students emulating a real-world consulting project working for an external company in a semester-long project. To solicit different organizations to participate in the project, Buengel utilized networks such as LinkedIn, as well as his industry contacts. Businesses as large as Wells Fargo or as small as simple start-ups have taken advantage of the course, according to Buengel.

Teams of four to five students are assigned to work with a participating company. The students will then research the history of the company, perform in-depth market analyses, evaluate competitors, and study the customer base, among other tasks. Teams will also routinely meet with representatives from their client to gather more information, receive feedback, and discuss progress and action plans.

At the end of the project, the teams then present their respective company with a five-year growth strategy and business plan, just as a professional consulting firm would.

(From left) Daunte Harris, Lindsay Semmes, Cristina Nedelcu, Elizabeth Phillips, and Glen Terwilliger served as pro bono consultants for Mikal-Hamlett in the Management Consulting capstone course. Photo courtesy of Dirk Buengel.


Co-founded in 2020 by Virginia Tech alumnus Tommy Amal ’14, Mikal-Hamlett is a consulting firm that is committed to helping uncover conscious and unconscious biases across organizations. The firm provides tools and builds skills within businesses to help them effectively manage across all aspects of diversity, all while building cultural competence for inclusive leadership. They do this by providing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) consulting services, human capital, and fundraising services, as well as consultation workshops.

The Mikal-Hamlett consulting team

The students who worked as consultants for Mikal-Hamlett were:

  • Daunte Harris; currently a student in the Department of Management
  • Cristina Nedelcu ’23 (BIT, MGT); currently an information security engineer for Mastercard
  • Elizabeth Phillips ’23 (BIT, MGT); currently an associate consultant for UDig in Richmond, Va.
  • Lindsay Semmes ’23 (MKT, MGT); currently a financial consultant for EY in Charlotte, N.C.
  • Glen Terwilliger ’23 (PSYCH)

“Our experience with Mikal-Hamlett was truly transformative in our consulting education,” said Lindsay Semmes. “It brought together all of the concepts, terminology, and analysis tools we learned at Virginia Tech to fruition in a way we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to without this course.”

Semmes explained that working with an organization dedicated to DEI was an incentive, as DEI and environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) are fundamental pieces of a modern successful business.

“We are lucky to have worked with an organization that is dedicated to moving us towards a more inclusive working world,” Semmes continued.

The final product

Buengel's course garnered exceptional feedback from previous participating organizations, rating the consultation provided by student teams as on par, if not superior, to that of professional consulting agencies.

Was this the case with the Mikal-Hamlett team?

“Oh, absolutely,” said Tommy Amal. “We’ve already seen some of the benefits from the service that we received from this group of students. They helped us think about how to set clear goals and how to take steps to get to those goals.”

In terms of time commitments, Amal said that his team's contribution was minimal, and primarily involved supplying the team with company information and participating in a few video calls.

According to Amal, the service provided by Buengel’s students was impossible to quantify, but easy to see.

“It’s always good to go back to the drawing board and have an outside eye come in and help you think about your strategy and think about your goals,” said Amal. “They helped us with some tangible things, and we've already seen some of the fruit of that labor.”

He continued, “They were phenomenal, and I couldn't even put a dollar amount on the value of their work.”