MAILED: Aug. 26, 1997|
EAU CLAIRE -- Some low-income and elderly residents in the Eau Claire area will get help from UW-Eau Claire business students thanks to a new service-learning program.
Through the program, College of Business students could assist clients with money management issues such as filing taxes, balancing their checkbooks and planning household budgets. In addition, United Way of Greater Eau Claire organizations could receive assistance from students with projects such as data management and designing financial support systems.
"We're very excited about this because it will not only help people in the community, but it will make our business students more aware of responsibilities that will be expected of them once they are out of school and working in a business setting," said Margaret Dwyer, associate dean of the College of Business. "Our students will become more appreciative of their expected role in their communities."
An estimated 15 to 20 faculty members and community partners, and about 250 student service-learners are expected to participate in the "The College of Business: Partners in Service-Learning" program, slated to begin this fall. The specifics of the program are still being worked out, Dwyer said, noting that organizers want to identify ways to enable faculty, community sponsors and students to collaborate on the development of service-learning components for courses and co-curricular offerings.
The project was funded by a $50,000 grant from Learn and Serve America: Higher Education. The grant provides funding for the period of July 1, 1997, through Sept. 30, 1998. Grant dollars enable the college to provide faculty with stipends for their additional work with the service-learning programs, as well as offering student leadership scholarships, Dwyer said. Faculty will work with student leaders, who will, in turn, work with teams of students, she said.
"We are one of a select few business schools who have received this grant," said V. Thomas Dock, dean of the College of Business. "We believe that experiential experiences are as important as textbook-based learning. This project compliments the textbook-based side of a student's education."
While UW-Eau Claire has a strong record of service-learning in its nursing, education, health administration and social work programs, the College of Business has had limited partnerships with community agencies, Dwyer said. Because business students typically don't get heavily involved in the business curriculum until their junior year, the College of Business is just starting to see the first wave of students who will fulfill 30 hours of service-learning activities to graduate, she said.
"We want to address our students' needs in a comprehensive way," Dwyer said of the college's service-learning plan, adding that faculty and students will continue to develop the comprehensive plan as the academic year gets under way.
In the grant proposal, the College of Business identifies seven program objectives:
- To create an interactive electronic infrastructure linking the Lotus LearningSpace Application Suite to service-learning components with the result being that 75 percent of the trained business faculty develop a service-learning component for a course or co-curricular offering.
- To offer in the spring semester three courses with service-learning components, selected from among the initiatives developed by 15 faculty members and community agency professionals who participated in in-service and curricular development activities.
- To institute a student leadership component, through which 12 student team leaders assist faculty and community agencies in planning and implementing strategies of recruitment, preparation, monitoring and evaluating approximately 240 student participants in three service-learning offerings.
- To develop and enhance the leadership skills of 12 trained student team leaders through their leading 12 teams of 20 students each which results in 90 percent of the 240 service-learners completing the 30-hour service learning commitment during the course.
- To enable 90 percent of the enrolled service-learners to complete their 30-hour service requirement, with 80 percent of those completing the requirement demonstrating understanding of and possible solutions to the service recipients' needs, and 60 percent of these indicating a commitment to future community service involvement.
- To provide for 300 elderly and/or low-income clients of United Way agencies a student-staffed money management service that will give these clients consultation on personal financial choices, and assistance with budgeting and financial documentation.
- To provide at least one United Way agency an information management assessment by management information systems student teams.
An unusual component of the proposal was the Lotus LearningSpace Application Suite, Dwyer said. The program will enhance learning by enabling easy access to a shared base of research/resource tools, an interactive electronic classroom, ready-made templates for tracking activities and clients, and scheduling and evaluation tools to pace and assess their progress, she said.
Combining current technology with a service-learning program was among the features that made the College of Business' grant application stand out, Dwyer said.
"And this component gives us a chance to give something back to the community," Dwyer said. "The materials we make available can be viewed by anyone with access to the World Wide Web so we'll be sharing the work we've done with the community."
Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: Aug. 26, 1997