With its highest-ever turnout of 342 attendees for its biannual conference, students in the Quality Enhancement Systems and Teams (QUEST) Honors Program saw immense support for showcasing their impactful, real-world consulting projects.
Held at the University of Maryland’s Samuel Riggs IV Alumni Center in December, the QUEST Conference marks the culmination of semester-long efforts from BMGT/ENES 490H QUEST Capstone Professional Practicum students. Instructed by Smith School professors M. Gisela Bardossy and David Ashley, members of QUEST Cohort 38 were grouped into nine teams of four to five students working to provide operational insights and recommendations to their respective corporate clients.
“We’re extremely grateful for the opportunity to celebrate our students’ hard work and achievements,” says Jessica Roffe, assistant director of QUEST. “Their professionalism, willingness to embrace rigorous projects and ability to deliver valuable results each semester are reasons clients continue to partner with our program.”
QUEST, a three-year program, brings together undergraduate students from the A. James Clark School of Engineering, the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences, and the Robert H. Smith School of Business. The honors program is renowned for its multidisciplinary, hands-on learning experiences.
Finance student Daphne Ranti ’24, a member of the Dixon Valve team that was selected as the Most Outstanding Capstone, appreciated the opportunity to work with real-world clients and gain a first-hand understanding of business processes. She said that the support and candidness of the Dixon Valve representatives throughout the semester and the application of the QUEST curriculum were essential to the project’s success.
“The lecture material and guest speakers helped us think outside the box on how to approach our client’s scope and deliver the most value in solving the business problem,” says Ranti. “I am honored that my team was recognized; we truly owe this achievement to our supportive clients, our faculty advisor, Dr. Corsi, the Quality Guild [QUEST Faculty and Staff], the hard work of my teammates and Cohort 38.”
David Collier, COO of Warrior Centric Health, a first-time QUEST client, praised the students’ work and shared his belief that they are just scratching the surface of their potential.
“I was very impressed at the QUEST Conference. Honestly, the highlight of my month was seeing the nine presentations. They were worthy of someone five years into a consulting job. It gave me real hope that there are great things for the future,” said Collier.
Among the returning clients served by students were BAE Systems, McCormick, CPSI, MRAS, Tronox and Thales Defense & Security. Three new clients partnered with QUEST for the fall 2023 semester:
Dixon Valve: The Chestertown, Md. manufacturer and supplier of hose couplings, valves and other fluid transfer products tasked students with analyzing the financial impact of slow-moving inventory and developing a management strategy to help enhance warehouse efficiency and overall profitability. The team devised a “Movement Score” for these products, combining multiple factors such as gross profit margin and sales velocity. The score was integrated into a Power BI dashboard created by the students to help Dixon Valve leaders identify and replace less profitable inventory with more lucrative alternatives.
Total Wine & More: As the country’s largest independent retailer of fine wine and spirits, Total Wine turned to QUEST students for insights on its online spirits direct tequila sales after seeing rapid growth in the tequila market following the COVID-19 pandemic. Students conducted stakeholder interviews with three essential Total Wine entities and received over 50 million anonymized transactions tied to two million Total Wine consumer profiles. The team subsequently investigated this data using chi-squared tests and fitting regression. It consolidated its findings into consumer insights the client can employ in optimizing website recommendations to increase profit margins on spirits-direct tequila.
Warrior Centric Health: The veteran-owned and operated company serves Active-Duty military personnel and various groups within the armed forces community by providing comprehensive data analysis, community outreach and credentialing solutions to healthcare organizations. It enlisted the assistance of QUEST students in streamlining and scaling its Continuing Education modules, which help medical professionals treat veteran-specific issues. After conducting 12 stakeholder interviews and two analysis-focused surveys, the students shared four recommendations: Streamline the process flow, standardize Subject Matter Expert (SME) onboarding, hire a Director of Medical Education (DME), and use Asana as a project management tool.
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About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business
The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and flex MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, business master’s, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.