Combatting risk benefits from a creative outsider's perspective.

Some companies use interns for drudgery such as filing, copying and collating with a little meaningful work sprinkled in. How about using them to brainstorm solutions to high-level business challenges?

The Risk Institute at Ohio State University, which held its annual gathering Sept. 27 and 28, offers members access to partner with students working toward MBAs and specialized master’s in finance degrees to develop ways to combat risk. Through 64 engagements, students have been offered jobs at the likes of Worldpay, Discover, Abbott Nutrition and more.

“It’s about experiential education,” says Phil Renaud, the Risk Institute’s executive director. “It’s making sure that we’re preparing students beyond the classroom. For the companies, they may not have the staff or training in-house to devote to these issues. Students get to meet really great companies with strong potential that they are hired after the end of the project.”

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Student exercises have resulted in strategic recommendations for Columbus region companies. SEA Limited, which provides clients with forensic consulting and consumer product testing, changed how it approached internal processes as a result of its partnership with the students. At the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio, students helped investment staff move toward a factor-based portfolio in 2018. And Discover Global Network spent three years with students looking at how to spot risk associated with third-party business partners.

“The students helped us see our business issues from different perspectives, which led to breakthroughs in our approach,” Cindy Bertsch, director of Discover Financial Services, said in a statement. “In each project, there has been at least one idea or nugget of new information that has continued to grow in our business after the project ended.”

Katy Smith is the editor of Columbus CEO.