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Students Receive Real-World Research Opportunities at CiBiC

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Connor Mokrzycki


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The Daniels College of Business

The University’s own on-campus consulting firm, the Consumer Insights and Business Innovation Center (CiBiC) provides real-world experience for undergraduate and graduate students and a range of research services to organizations, researchers and entrepreneurs across campus and beyond.

Internal and external clients have called on CiBiC to conduct qualitative and quantitative research and analysis to guide planning and decisions towards optimal, consumer-focused outcomes. “True product or service innovations should be always consumer-centric,” says Ali Besharat, chair of the marketing department and co-director of CiBiC. 

Working with on-campus partners and industry clients alike, CiBiC’s services include market and competitive analysis, focus groups, surveys and more. Beyond supporting campus-wide projects and industry consulting, “CiBiC is able to help support the needs of on-campus faculty researchers who don't traditionally do competitive analyses, consumer insights research or market feasibility studies,” says Melissa Akaka, associate dean for research, director of the Master of Science in Marketing, and co-director of CiBiC. 

Student Researchers at CiBiC

Generating useful insights for clients while creating opportunities for graduate student-employees to gain crucial skills and hands-on experience in market analysis and research are a core component of how CiBiC operates. “Our mission is to train a group of interested students to get their hands dirty with research so they can test the world of consulting, understand a client's needs, and learn how to deliver value to companies by answering the questions that come to them,” Besharat says. “And one of the goals is for students to actually have a learning experience that they can go and talk about and get jobs in these areas,” adds Akaka.  

CiBiC’s graduate student-employees come from across the disciplines, and their skills, career goals and interests are matched with real-world consulting projects, equipping them to dive deeper into the world of market research after they graduate. “Students get the full training while they're doing the job,” Besharat says.  

While focused on market research and consumer insights, student-employees have opportunities to expand on their coursework, says Hang Ngo, a graduate student pursuing a master’s in business analytics. “Working at CiBiC is not just about marketing, but also about market research and consumer analytics, which is a very interesting career path for analytics students like myself,” she says. 

Moreover, CiBiC provides a unique, meaningful way to learn the ins and outs of market research and analysis. “These kinds of projects, where you have real outcomes and real data to work with, are hard to put into a classroom setting,” Akaka says.  

In collaboration with the client, Akaka and Besharat scope out each project, design the testing instruments and ensure that the right metrics are being captured in the data. Student-employees play a major role in coordinating, notetaking, organizing and analyzing data, and presenting their findings back to the client.  

In her work with CiBiC, Ngo’s has served as a researcher for the MBA programs at Daniels, developing questions, conducting focus groups and analyzing responses, as well as working with external clients. “I appreciate the opportunity to work with local businesses, understand their needs, and help them succeed in their projects, whether it’s rebranding, or introducing a new product, or launching to a new market all together,” Ngo says.  

CiBiC’s researchers have worked on several on-campus projects, including DU’s Campus Shuttle, providing insights into shuttle routes, rider experience and the shuttle’s app; the 4D Experience, gauging students’ experiences and working on the My4D app; with the University of Denver Magazine, conducting focus groups with readers; and conducting market research and analysis in support of students’ Senior Design Projects at the Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science.  

For researchers, administrators and entrepreneurs alike, CiBiC offers a research and analysis approach aimed at solving problems. “We are a service for the University,” Besharat says. “If we’re needed in any capacity, by different divisions or departments or colleges, we are there. And our ultimate goal is to generate insights about the challenges that any unit or division is facing.”