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Gain real-world experience

Immersion Quarter

Immersion Quarter is much more than an internship. During your fourth quarter in the IMC program, you combine hands-on learning with the guidance of Medill faculty to tackle a real-world problem at a company partner. You come away with significant experience to add to your resume and apply to any industry you decide to pursue after graduation.

Students walking together and talking

During Immersion Quarter, you work with a team of three to five IMC students on a consulting project that is of significant scope and value to the company. You tackle real-world challenges and provide solutions that make a lasting difference for business objectives.

This experience gives you an inside look into the inner workings of an organization and allows you to apply what you have learned in the first three quarters of the IMC program in a professional setting. The partner company benefits from your strategic thinking, fresh perspectives and forward-thinking ideas.

Immersion Quarter is a required part of the IMC curriculum and you earn three credits for completing it.

How immersion quarter works

One of the major advantages of IMC Immersion Quarter is that we remove the stress of having to search and interview for internships and the uncertainty of whether or not that internship will provide you with the skills you will need after graduation.

Medill does this by working with companies to design projects that meet specific learning objectives and ensure that you finish Immersion Quarter having learned and applied IMC skills that you can take to any company or industry.

We then look at your specific interests and goals and use an algorithm to match you with a company and a team of fellow students that will best help you succeed. Students with different skillsets are matched together to form holistic and strong teams.

Leadership Strategies Program

Before diving into your project, you will participate in a three-day Leadership Strategies Program. This program develops skills that help make your project more successful, including project planning and management, interpersonal communications, team-building, conflict resolution, client management and presentation skills. Teams also produce a Project Charter and a detailed Project Plan for their specific corporate assignment. In addition, students learn key networking and even personal branding tips to highlight Immersion Quarter experiences and accomplishments on LinkedIn profiles.

A team of five students pose for a photo by the Home Partners of America logoOnce you have completed the Leadership Strategies Program, you and your team will spend the next 10 weeks solving a marketing challenge identified by company leaders. Along the way, IMC faculty will work with you during strategic checkpoints to move the project plan forward and meet the goals sponsors have set.

Throughout the quarter, you will use qualitative and quantitative data from the company to develop insights and a plan to address the project scope. At the end of the quarter, your team will present its strategic recommendations to company leaders, which often includes senior-level executives.

Some projects are in the Chicagoland area, and other projects are in different places across the country. For out-of-town projects, occasionally students relocate to that city for Immersion Quarter, or travel there for a short time. Medill's priority is always the health and safety of our students so we may make adjustments to planned travel based on guidance from Northwestern’s Office of Global Safety and Security.

Students in discussion in a conference room

What you learn

Some of the skills you practice, develop and demonstrate during Immersion Quarter include:

  • Brand planning and strategy analytics
  • Competitive analysis
  • Customer insight
  • Digital/mobile marketing
  • Strategic communications and public relations
  • Primary and secondary research
  • Media strategy and management
  • Social media analysis
  • Team communication
  • Content marketing
  • Shopper marketing
  • Strategic thinking
  • Project planning and management
  • New product marketing
  • Creative solutions and problem solving
  • Presentation skills
  • Confidence to work with senior executives
  • Networking within an organization

Past sponsors

Examples of past sponsors include:

  • 4A's
  • Abbott
  • Allstate
  • American Egg Board
  • Anheuser-Busch
  • Anthem Insurance 
  • Arc Worldwide
  • Burger King
  • Chrisad
  • ebay 
  • Financial Marketing Institute
  • Home Partners of America
  • HP
  • Kraft Heinz
  • Leo Burnett
  • Mike’s Hard Lemonade
  • Mondelēz
  • Northwestern University Athletics
  • Old Town School of Music
  • Optum/UnitedHealthcare
  • Planet Fitness
  • Popeyes
  • Qiagen
  • Salesforce
  • The Marketing Store
  • Tim Hortons
  • Under Armour
  • vAuto – Cox Automotive
  • Walgreens

Success stories

Since 2013, student teams have participated in 237 team consulting projects with leading companies. Many students have secured jobs at companies they work with during Immersion Quarter or have said that they talked about their Immersion Quarter experiences during interviews with other companies. They gain valuable skills and experiences through Immersion Quarter that help them in their future career. Here are some examples:

Helen Matsumoto (IMC20) and her team worked at Salesforce creating a machine learning model to segment Salesforce customers. “We had so much support from Northwestern professors and advisers. I was so thrilled [when I was offered a full-time job with Salesforce after the project]. I hadn’t been seriously considering pursuing a job in data before, but Immersion Quarter helped me discover that I really loved it and learned that I have a knack for analysis. It’s changed my entire thinking on what kind of career I want to have.

“I was at Igloo Products Corp during the Immersion Quarter where we put together a retail optimization recommendation to drive incremental sales. I always refer back to this opportunity during interviews since it not only provided me valuable hands-on experience but also challenged me to take being a team player to the next level.” - Cindy Chang (IMC18)

“During my Immersion Quarter, I was given the opportunity to work for Anheuser-Busch InBev. Our team was tasked with developing a customer relationship management (CRM) program and a longterm email strategy for its six priority brands. I'd never had experience building a CRM program from the ground up, so it was definitely a valuable learning opportunity for me. The insights I gained during Immersion Quarter also made for useful anecdotes during my job interviews.” - Brandon Lin (IMC20)

“During Immersion Quarter, I worked as a marketing consultant for YMCA of Metro Chicago. It was such a pleasure to develop a comprehensive IMC plan that will work to deepen family engagement across the Chicagoland area. The amazing individuals at the Y supported us throughout our project, and my awesome teammates made it the experience of a lifetime.” - Janna Prowell (IMC19)

Immersion Quarter timeline

Immersion Quarter takes place in the fourth quarter of the IMC Full-Time program, and you prepare for the experience in the months leading up to it. Here’s an overview of the timing:

Quarter 1 (fall)

  • Take four IMC core courses.
  • Consider your career aspirations and what skills you might like to gain from Immersion Quarter.
  • Attend the Immersion Quarter kickoff meeting.
  • Medill faculty reach out to previous project sponsors and recruit new companies.

Quarter 2 (winter)

  • Take four IMC courses.
  • Meet with a Medill Career Services adviser to set career goals and identify interests for Immersion Quarter.
  • Start the Skills and Preferences survey, which is available in February.

Quarter 3 (spring)

  • Take four IMC courses.
  • Submit your final Skills and Preferences survey by mid-April.
  • Corporate project scopes are finalized by late April and communicated to students along with a Project Interests survey.
  • The skills companies are looking for are matched with your skill preferences and project interests using our proprietary matching algorithms. The algorithms define student/project fit and are used to assign students to teams objectively.
  • In mid-May, project teams are announced and faculty advisors appointed.
  • Meet with your faculty adviser and company supervisors for a project kick-off briefing during the end of May/beginning of June.

Quarter 4 (summer)

  • June – Participate in Leadership Week.
  • June-August – Work with your team to accomplish the project goals and deliverables; meet regularly with your faculty adviser for support and mentorship.
  • August – Deliver the final presentation with your team.

Quarter 5 (fall)

  • Take three to four IMC courses.
  • Meet with Medill Career Services for an individualized appointment to learn how to articulate the value you added to your Immersion Quarter project. Learn how to communicate the real-world, professional experience you had during Immersion Quarter in your job application materials and interviews.