Case Study

Elevating academic & industry collaboration through in-demand skill development

How Riipen empowers the University of Colorado Boulder and Lockton Companies Inc. to achieve their institutional and company goals.
July 13, 2023
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The institution

The University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder) is a renowned research-intensive (R1) institution dedicated to identifying and addressing the humanitarian, social and technological challenges of the 21st century. 

With innovation, leadership, and impact as top of mind core values, the University offers a comprehensive array of undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degree programs. 

The company

Lockton Companies Inc., the world’s largest privately held insurance brokerage firm, provides insurance, risk management, employee benefits and retirement services. 

As a broker and an advisor, Lockton serves more than 65,000 clients worldwide, bringing creative thinking and an entrepreneurial spirit to the insurance business. 

The challenge

Dylan Mark and Kelly Chastain, Program Managers for Professional Experiences at University of Colorado Boulder, partnered with Riipen to provide their students access to project-based learning opportunities that offer pathways for industry exposure. “We are thinking about how we can provide our students with the absolute best shot at career development,” Chastain said. 

From the employer perspective, Senior Vice President, Strategic Risk Consulting, Special Projects & Research at Lockton Companies, Michael Davis looked to Riipen and CU Boulder students as a means to answer some of the company’s most pressing questions. “Companies like ours don’t often have access to the [breadth of] research and resources offered at a university,” Davis said.

The work-based learning champions 

Within this partnership, work-based learning champions come from both Lockton and the University of Colorado Boulder. Lockton’s Michael Davis and CU Boulder’s Dylan Mark and Kelly Chastain each recognize the value and need for work-based learning for their respective goals. And as advocates for work-based learning, Davis, Mark, and Chastain also champion the relationships that result from such learning and collaboration. 

The partnership

Through the Riipen platform, Lockton and CU Boulder – by way of the University’s Career Services – partnered to complete a research project that explored the environmental impact of building new oil pipelines in the U.S compared to shipping oil to the U.S. from overseas. Currently, the partnership has embarked on a multiple-phase project that allows Lockton access to skilled students who are excited about the company’s projects and institutional resources that help them to achieve it. “Working with these students who have access to the University resources has made it possible for us to further our research and findings,” Davis said. “It’s a real joy to be able to work and research with [CU Boulder] students.”

This partnership is also central to the career development CU Boulder is trying to achieve through their co-curricular work-based learning program, Buff Works – where students apply their education, skills, and knowledge to real-world projects. Through Buff Works, students across all academic departments at CU Boulder work together in teams to complete projects with companies and professional organizations. “Students are really hungry for professional experience and as we’ve looked to scale up those opportunities, we have also looked to fill in the gaps for student experience with a multidisciplinary program that engages students from all departments and perspectives,” said Dylan Mark.  

The outcome 

By looking at concepts like renewable and solar energy, carbon footprints, and power generation growth, students, who gained valuable work experience and exposure to the risk management industry, were ultimately able to help Davis and the broader Lockton team answer key questions and even produced a working database that calculated the carbon footprint of different transport methods the group was investigating. “We worked with students with varying [academic] backgrounds and they really surprised us with one, the questions they ask and two, what they are able to do with research,” Davis said. Today, the current Lockton team has students from engineering, computer science, economics, and psychology majors closely collaborating on the project. 

CU Boulder students who participated in the project felt that the opportunity to participate in work-based learning with Lockton provided additional value to their academic and professional experiences. “I felt that it was an effective method of learning, I feel like I learned a lot on this project. I didn’t know any of the technical aspects of business logistics related to the industry,” said Keith Bates, a computer science major who worked on the Lockton Project. As exemplified by both Davis and Bates, Riipen has helped to shape a mutually beneficial relationship, one that bridged the gap between students seeking industry experience and employers who are eager to work with students on influential projects.    

Altogether, all project contributors and stakeholders, Lockton, CU Boulder students, and CU Boulder Career Services reaped the benefits of all that work-based and project-based learning that Riipen has to offer. By and large, students succeeded not only in gaining work experience but provided tremendous value to the research being done at Lockton. As a result, students, Lockton and CU Boulder Career Services, look forward to continuing their collaboration. “The Lockton projects have really gained a lot of traction with our students and we’re excited to see how it carries out in the following semesters,” said Dylan Mark.


About Riipen

As the world's largest online work-based learning marketplace, Riipen makes it easy for higher education institutions and industry partners to collaborate on flexible project-based experiential learning opportunities embedding real-life business challenges directly into the curriculum. To learn more about our innovative work-based learning platform and how working with Riipen can result in improved student engagement and student employability outcomes, please use this link to request a call with the Riipen team.

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