||Schofield Hall 218|
||Eau Claire, WI 54702-4004|
College of Business Students
Work On Service Learning Projects |
MAILED: March 5, 1998|
EAU CLAIRE -- Some low-income and elderly residents in the Eau Claire area are getting help with their finances from University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire business students.
College of Business students are assisting clients with money management issues such as filing taxes and planning household budgets as they fulfill service-learning requirements. Other students are assisting organizations such as the American Red Cross with marketing projects.
"It'll not only help people in the community, but will make our business students more aware of responsibilities that will be expected of them once they're working in business settings," Margaret Dwyer, interim associate vice chancellor for academic affairs, said of the college's initiative to bring service-learning opportunities to its students. "Students will become more appreciative of their expected roles in their communities."
Last summer, the college received a $50,000 grant from Learn and Serve America: Higher Education. Grant dollars provided five faculty with stipends for their work with service-learning programs and 12 students with leadership scholarships. Faculty incorporated service-learning components in some classes and work with student project leaders, who then work with teams of students. Faculty receiving funds were Sue Haugen, Bill Korn, Jim LaBarre, Mehdi Sheikloleslami and Lucretia Mattson.
Introducing students to volunteer work while in college will hopefully help make them more productive members of their communities after they graduate, said Mattson, who advises a student group that offers free tax advice to low-income and elderly community members. Mattson also has developed a personal finance class that requires students to work with community clients on personal finance problems.
"I believe one of the marks of a professional is a willingness to be involved in volunteer work," Mattson said. "A professional gives back to the community and tries to make his or her community a better a place. I'm convinced one person can make a difference and I hope to instill that in students."
More than 200 community members receive assistance with their tax returns each year thanks to the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, Mattson said, noting there are usually about 20 UW-Eau Claire students participating. And each of the 15 students enrolled in the newly created personal finance class will connect with a client whom they will assist create short- and long-term financial goals.
Such experiences with clients will give UW-Eau Claire students a step up on many other graduates when they enter the work force, Mattson said. It addition, it also brings students in contact with people from different socioeconomic backgrounds whom they might not otherwise meet, she said.
"It helps them understand the world isn't fair," she said. "Many of these people have very sad personal situations and it's good for the students see that."
Among the other faculty initiatives was the creation of a management information systems course that specifically addresses the needs of organizations in the Eau Claire community, said Cynthia Hofacker, one of the program's coordinators and a lecturer of business communication. The College of Business gets numerous requests from community agencies for assistance with their computer systems design, Web page development and other information systems projects, she said. In the past, help has been provided on an inconsistent basis depending on faculty availability and whether students were looking for such opportunities, she said.
"Now we have a place to filter all of those requests and students can sign up for the course and meet the service-learning requirement," Hofacker said. "We can better match the students and projects, and faculty, students and community members can better communicate about a project."
As a result of "The College of Business: Partners in Service-Learning," faculty and community partners are expected to work with about 200 service-learners this spring.
While UW-Eau Claire has a strong record of service-learning in nursing, health administration and social work, the College of Business has had limited partnerships with community agencies, Dwyer said. Because students typically don't get heavily involved in business curriculum until their junior years, the college is just seeing its first wave of students who must fulfill 30 hours of service-learning to graduate.
Among the more unusual components of the proposal was the incorporation of technology into service-learning programs. For example, students participating in projects must keep an online journal documenting their interaction with clients and any actions they've taken regarding the project, said Hofacker. Students are required to review the journal before contacting the client so they're current on what their teammates have done, she said.
The 12 students who received the $400 scholarships were selected from among student applicants interested in leading service-learning teams, Hofacker said. Those students are developing leadership skills while participating in the project because they must form teams of five to 10 students and lead them as they work on a project.
I have been in charge of projects before but nothing quite this formal," said Shelly Lang, a senior MIS and accounting major from Edgar who was chosen to lead a team. "It's a great way for leaders and team members alike to establish contacts with business members in the community."
Hofacker said the college is applying for additional funding in the hopes of expanding the program as more of its students require service-learning experiences. The emphasis for the next proposal will be on marketing and promotion, she said, noting that there is a demand in the community for that type of help.
Community agencies interested in working with the service-learning project can contact Erik Rotvold at (715) 836-4649.
Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: March 5, 1998