CMU business institute connects students to employers

Real-world experience opens doors in Fortune 500 firms

In January 2013, statistics senior Marianne Brown began her second year working at Central Michigan University's Institute for Health and Business Insight.

Marianne Brown

The institute is a not-for-profit consulting group that uses data and advanced analytics to solve business problems, including for dozens of Fortune 500 companies in manufacturing, retail, health care and more.

Brown was part of a team doing predictive analytics for a California data company. Six months later, she was offered a job.

"It basically was a six-month-long job interview to see if we were a good fit," Brown said.

That's a typical outcome for students who work at IHBI, said Imad Haidar, the institute's director and senior research and data scientist.

"We hire and train CMU students in advanced statistical analytics so once they graduate, they land rewarding jobs in business, industry, finance and health care," he said.

He estimated that 60 students have worked at the institute over the years, with the majority of those who sought jobs in business finding success.

Landing a job with IHBI

When the institute needs student workers, it places a notice through  Student Employment Services and contacts faculty and department chairs for recommendations. Chosen candidates are then interviewed. Let your instructors know if you're interested. Questions? Contact Imad Haidar at

Solving problems for nearly two decades

The institute was established in 2001 at the CMU Research Corp. to help solve business problems. In 2010, it moved to the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow College of Health Professions.

What sets IHBI apart from other business consultant groups is that, by being a part of CMU, it has access to faculty and staff for consultation, Haidar said.

IHBI staff and student employees vary by the project. Staff hold master's degrees or doctorates in physics, statistics, economics, computer science, sociology, geography and more.

"When we take on a project, we have an enormous set of skills that we can tap into," Haidar said. "That allows us to a Swiss Army knife approach: There's a different solution for each problem.

Real-world experience

Alma Pochini

2015 graduate Alma Pochini, from Semey, Kazakhstan, works as a consumer risk manager at General Motors Financial Co. in Detroit. She has been at GM for nearly five years and credits her IHBI experience and its relationships with Fortune 100 companies with helping her land and grow in her job.

"It helped broaden my business problem-solving skills beyond data analytics to include deeper questions of where and how in order to create additional value for the client," she said. "It also taught me how to work with people with different skill sets in a supportive environment that fosters curiosity and new ideas."

Growth through mentorship

Cooperative learning is a main tenet of the program, Haidar said. Students don't have to have a high level of certain skills to get a job at IHBI. The leaders aim to fill teams with students who have a variety of skills and who would gel as a team.

"We students grew through the mentorships with the full-time staff," Brown said. "Yes, we were working on real data that went out to clients, but if we made a mistake it wasn't like we failed. We worked through it together to figure out what went wrong and what to do better the next time."

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