Student Consulting Group Takes Flight

Student Consulting Group Takes Flight

It was January 2014 when William Catton "14 and Hayden Conrad "15 got the idea to start a student-run consulting group that would take on projects for the region's companies, state institutions, and nonprofits. Little did they know that a similar idea was already being pursued within the college by assistant dean for undergraduate programs Collette Niland. Less than a year later, Catton, Conrad, and Niland's vision has become a reality, and the Oregon Business Consulting Group (OBCG) is poised for startup.

OBCG is a logical extension of the Lundquist College's core philosophy of experiential learning. From their own student experience, Catton and Conrad already knew how they and their peers benefited from the consulting projects taken on via the college's business strategy and planning course, a capstone of the undergraduate experience. And as senior analysts for the University of Oregon Investment Group (UOIG), the two undergrads were well aware how much they learned from their hands-on experience helping manage more than $1 million in live money. Indeed, it was while attending the University Private Equity Summit at the University of Utah under the auspices of UOIG that Catton and Conrad arrived at the idea of starting a student consultancy.

Soon after they returned to Eugene, Catton and Conrad brought the idea to senior instructor Beth Hjelm, who connected them with assistant dean Niland. Niland had already been working with former senior associate dean of academic affairs Sergio Koreisha to create a new transformative experience for students. From her days at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign—home of what is currently the largest student-run consulting group in the United States—Niland had already experienced the value and impact that a such a consultancy afforded both companies and students. She was eager to launch a similar group at the Lundquist College. So when Cattan and Conrad approached her, the proverbial stars aligned, and OBCG's development began in earnest.

The OBCG mission is to provide clients with a professional deliverable from student consulting teams at the fraction of the cost of a traditional consultancy. The goal is for clients" fees to cover project costs, provide a salary for the professional director overseeing the students" work, and fund guest lectures from leading consulting professionals.

On December 1, 2014, OBCG welcomed its new director Rich Duncombe, a highly experienced executive who has led or mentored more than 35 major innovation projects and managed a $75 million venture fund. Duncombe spent more than 30 years at Hewlett-Packard, serving in a wide variety of leadership roles. In 2012, Duncombe founded the Innovation Catalyst Group to drive business growth for clients in high technology businesses.

Early in early 2015, OBCG will begin working for its first client, University of Oregon Study Abroad, investigating new ways to market international opportunities to students in the university's professional schools.

“Our focus is to deliver value for our clients and experiential learning for our student consultants," said Duncombe.

OBCG is being managed as a startup and will be fully launched in the fall of 2015. Organizations wishing to use the group's services in the future may contact Duncombe at

University of Oregon students interested in becoming OBCG consultants are also invited to email

Visit OBCG Web Page