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Partnership with local nonprofit group demonstrates ideal community alliance

RELEASED: May 19, 2011

Jean Pratt
Jean Pratt

EAU CLAIRE — Dr. Jean Pratt, associate professor of information systems at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, recently was awarded the university's "Excellence in Service-Learning" award for mentoring a student project with Trinity Equestrian Center, a full-service horse center in Eau Claire. The project also yielded an award for the nonprofit's role in helping students and demonstrated how a university-community partnership can be mutually beneficial.

Students in Pratt's "Systems Analysis and Design" class work with community organizations on their information systems needs. In fall 2009 a student group created an online scheduling system for Trinity Equestrian Center. The following semester Pratt assigned students to create the database management system that would go with it. Teams of four work on the same project in a competition to design the best database management system for the client.

According to Pratt, the class uses a sophisticated database management system, one that a nonprofit likely could never afford. To make the system usable for Trinity Equestrian Center, Pratt created a service-learning opportunity for students in the class who were willing to convert the expensive database system into a more affordable application.

"It was quite an undertaking, so I had to actually split the database into sections and had different groups tackle each different section of it," Pratt said.

Five of the eight student groups in the class participated and now two students are fulfilling their service-learning requirement by combining the converted database sections into one large database.

"After a year, Toni Mattson will get a database that will go underneath any Web application that might access it," Pratt said. Mattson is co-owner and director of program and ministries for Trinity Equestrian Center.

"I grew up on a dairy farm and I'm in awe of the power of horses and the way they're able to sense when they need to be gentle. I think Toni and her staff provide a totally instrumental service to our community," said Pratt, who plans to continue to work with Mattson. "She finds needs and uses her gifts to be able to fill those needs. If we can help her with the logistical part of her organization by providing one type of information system for her — fantastic!"

Mattson noted that she has worked with UW-Eau Claire's Center for Service-Learning before, allowing students to help with therapy programs and special events, but never on a project as involved as this one.

"The more streamlined our processes and procedures are, the more effort and energy we can pour into our clients and program development," said Mattson.

According to Dr. Don Mowry, director of the Center for Service-Learning, such partnerships strengthen a community.

"This type of project illustrates our commitment to civic engagement and the power of university students to educate, engage, empower and serve the community, which we hope becomes a lifelong value and practice," Mowry said.

For more information about service-learning at UW-Eau Claire, contact Dr. Don Mowry at dmowry@uwec.edu.

-30-

MC/RD/DW

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