Sickness, car wrecks, and births—INTEX, the weeklong rite of passage for information systems students, stops for nothing.
From Monday to Saturday once a semester, junior core students are separated into groups of four and tasked with identifying an in-depth solution to a case study. The result: an eighty-hour workweek.
“The students don’t sleep much that week,” admits Conan Albrecht, the Marriott School professor who heads up the program. “But INTEX gives them a sense of what it’s like in the real world.”
That practical focus is the beauty of INTEX, which is short for “integrative exercise.” Each year a company sponsors the event and provides the case study, which is based on a situation company execs have had to solve in the past, such as moving all their operations online or building a security system. Students receive a packet detailing the problem and from there must come up with models of their proposed system, cost analyses, and more—all without specific rules.
“One of the hardest things for students is dealing with ambiguity,” says Nathan Dudley, an MISM student from Rocklin, California. “During my internship at PepsiCo, I learned that you have to work with it in the corporate world. They don’t tell you a page limit or a word count—they just want a solution.”
The most challenging exercise faced by information systems students, INTEX helps to polish invaluable problem-solving skills.
Tahna Black, an MISM student from St. George, Utah, and copresident of BYU’s Association for Information Systems, says some groups’ final reports are upwards of one hundred pages long. “On Friday morning everyone prints out their packets at Cougar Creations,” Black laughs. “There’s a huge line of IS students frantically trying to print, while the printers are running out of ink.” Even with the deadline pressure, Black emerged victorious from INTEX—her group took home first place in the competition.
But before the teams receive any awards, the weeklong event comes to a climax when teams present to a panel of professors, teaching assistants, and professionals from the sponsoring institution.
“We’ve had accounting firms, banks, and consulting firms fly people in for INTEX,” Albrecht says. “They give out cash or gift card awards.”
In addition to naming the competition’s best, the judges also give out lighthearted awards to celebrate. There has been a tree-killer award for the longest packet, a BFF award for the team that ends up best friends, and even an unbreakable award, given when the judges couldn’t break one group’s security system.
Despite the playful energy of the awards ceremony, the event packs a professional punch. Black has already secured a position with ExxonMobil when she graduates in April—a feat she credits to skills honed through INTEX.
“INTEX allows us to see how the students integrate everything they’ve learned over the semester,” Albrecht says. “But the biggest thing that happens is that the students gain a level of confidence they couldn’t get out of a normal classroom experience. They walk out realizing they can solve these problems.”
Written by Madison Nield