Out of the Classroom, Into the World
By Adam Bohl, Becky Chang, Brittany Doyle, Elizabeth Hoppe, and Michael Ritzer
University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire College of Business offers various immersion experiences where students can gain experience outside the classroom.
The College of Business offers students many opportunities to participate in immersion experiences, which allow students to be actively involved in the community, gain valuable learning experiences, and work directly with organizations to apply coursework. Immersion experiences are currently offered as part of the coursework in the Information Systems and Marketing and Management departments. Students can also be involved in community assistance immersion programs through the Accounting and Finance departments.
The Information Systems department offers a variety of immersion experiences through coursework. In Business Software Engineering (IS 314), students work in groups to build an information system for a company. For example, this could be a database or online ordering system. Some groups work with companies in other countries so they are exposed to different cultures. In Database Management Systems (IS 344), groups work with local businesses, often non-profit organizations, to create a website or database or to implement a local area network.
Dr. Thomas Hilton, Information Systems Department chair, feels immersion experiences are very valuable. Hilton states, "When you get students in one of these experiences, they wake up and see the world."
The department also offers two elective internship courses. Dr. Hilton, the internship supervisor, says students, employers, and the department benefit from students doing internships through these courses. Students benefit because the internship is printed on a transcript--there is proof and acknowledgement of the student's experience in the field. Employees benefit from a quality control mechanism since Dr. Hilton makes a site visit half-way through the internship to ensure things are going well. Lastly, the department benefits, because there is documentation of the time devoted to the internship program. However, Dr. Hilton acknowledges that he and other staff devote additional time to creating internships for students.
The Management and Marketing Department offers a market research course where students are given the opportunity to create a marketing plan for a local business. As a result, these companies and organizations have had positive reactions to the program and have made big decisions based on the market research that has been conducted. For example, UW-Eau Claire hosted on a Gen-Ed conference which used the results of the students’ research to help focus on generational differences in the workplace and the impact of those differences on workplace performance.
Associate Dean Robert Sutton, who teaches the marketing research class states, “Students have the ability to apply what they have learned in this class to better help them understand how the material is related to the real world.” Students are also able to complete their service learning requirement through this course.
The leadership program offered through the Department of Management and Marketing gives students the opportunity to expand their leadership skills and be involved in the community. Students can take the community leadership course (Management 494), in which they implement a project for a non-profit organization. One example of a successful project is the Campus Kitchens project. Students worked with University Dining to organize the delivery of unused food to local shelters.
Dr. Scott Lester, director of the Center for Leadership and the instructor of community leadership course, says “the Community Leadership program has been growing every year and more organizations want to get involved with our students.” So far in the program there have been 33 successful projects implemented.
The small business consulting course (Management 414), also offered by the Department of Management and Marketing, is designed to bring real world experience to students entering the business field. The students in the course design an entire business plan for a local business. Dr. Kristy Lauver, the instructor of the course, has found a lot of success blending immersion experiences in coursework.
Lauver says, "The class is very challenging, but it gives students a great real life experience of how a business works." The small business consulting course counts towards the service learning requirement and is open to all majors in the College of Business.
Two programs offered in the community that involves UW-Eau Claire students are the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA) and the Financial Literacy Improvement Program (FLIP). The VITA program was implemented by the IRS in 1980 to help low-income families pay taxes. Accounting majors are required to take Accounting 404 in which they help with the VITA program’s mission.
Dr. D’Arcy Becker, chair of the Accounting and Finance Department says, “Students enjoy this program. You wouldn’t think that helping 800 people with their taxes is very exciting, but each person is different.”
Assistant Professor of Finance, Vladimir Kotomin, created FLIP last semester with the assistance of the Western Dairyland Economic Opportunity Council.
According to Kotomin, “The mission of FLIP is to increase financial literacy of low-income individuals and families and by doing so help them become self-sufficient, productive society members.”
The program also offers assistance for starting a small business by helping people get a license, receive grants, get loans, and pay taxes. The biggest challenge for FLIP is to keep people interested in the program and to ensure they follow through with the plan set up for them. Any juniors or seniors in the College of Business with good grades can volunteer with FLIP.
Dr. Robert Sutton, Associate Dean of the College of Business, states, “I think the more immersion experiences a student can experience, the more knowledgeable and prepared they will be to start their career and apply it in the work setting.”
Immersion experiences not only bring value to those who receive assistance or help, but also they give students the ability to gain hands-on experience. This can set you apart from others when it comes time to look for a job. For more information on immersion experiences, visit the College of Business website at http://www.uwec.edu/COB/makeaconnection/get_connected.htm.
From left to right: Adam Bohl is a junior management major from Chippewa Falls, WI;
Becky Chang is a senior marketing major from Eau Claire, WI;
Brittany Doyle is a senior business administration/information systems major from Wausau, WI;
Elizabeth Hoppe is a senior marketing major from Wausau, WI; and
Michael Ritzer is a senior marketing major from Reedsburg, WI.
They wrote this article for their BCOM Advanced Writing class.