Since 2011, when the National Center for the Middle Market (NCMM) was launched, we have understood the challenges many mid-size companies face with talent management – attraction, retention and development. As part of The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business, the center determined it would be natural to connect business students with middle market companies to solve problems of all types through collaborative team projects. In 2014, the first middle market business course, to our knowledge, was offered as part of Fisher’s undergraduate Industry Immersion program, a year-long experience that combines classroom lectures, guest presentations from company executives, field trips to company offices and sites and the aforementioned projects.

Throughout the 2021-2022 academic year, the center helped organize projects with a number of different middle market companies. Some of those companies, including the Columbus Blue Jackets of the National Hockey League, HOMAGE and Grote Company, have been participating for years. Other participating organizations, such as UpWest and BrewDog USA, were relatively new to the program.  Regardless, the program had another highly successful year all around. In Fall 2021, guest executives in the middle market industry immersion program included two CEOs, a CFO, a vice president of marketing and a chief comfort officer, all who offered years of knowledge and wisdom along with career advice and networking opportunities.

Beginning in Spring 2022, the student teams began working in partnership with these host companies on project work.  In many cases, the first few weeks of the project was spent learning more about the industry, organization and associates who would help provide input and guidance. After scoping and creating project briefs, many of the teams conducted primary research in the form of customer or target demographic surveys as well as accessing a variety of resources to understand industry norms and best practices. By the midway point of the Spring semester, the teams began cultivating ideas that would help address the challenges presented to them by each company. At the end of the semester, the teams created presentations that summarized their process, findings, ideas and final recommendations.  Examples of these company projects included finding ways to manage the ambassadors of the Blue Jackets Street Hockey program, creating ideas for a new product category at HOMAGE, providing suggestions to drive in-store traffic and online conversion rates for UpWest, and curating a marketing campaign to increase brand awareness for BrewDog around Ohio State’s campus.

In these types of university-industry collaborations, everyone “wins”. First, the students become immersed in the challenges, opportunities and culture in middle market companies. They also benefit from hands-on application of classroom knowledge into real-world problems, while sharpening their professional business skills like organization, communication and critical thinking. In addition, students have the opportunity to build their confidence by working directly with middle market executives. The companies do a wonderful job sourcing significant projects that are manageable within a 13-week semester and enjoy being presented with ideas for solutions to real-world challenges within their organizations. Ultimately, there is networking between students and company executives that often leads to internship and full-time job opportunities after graduation. Therefore, after years of running this successful industry immersion program, the NCMM is helping address the talent management issue in a small but meaningful way.

For more information about the middle market industry immersion program, reach out to us at