Business Students/Community Connections Run Deep

Hands-on Experiences Embedded into Courses

May 17, 2013

Senior Isaac Garland speaks with Dana Dunn, Clinton Memorial Hospital's director of community development, at this spring Speed Networking event. After several minutes of sharing pertinent information, students briefly met with another Chamber of Commerce member.

Senior Isaac Garland speaks with Dana Dunn, Clinton Memorial Hospital's director of community development, at this spring Speed Networking event. After several minutes of sharing pertinent information, students briefly met with another Chamber of Commerce member.

For much of Wilmington College’s history, local businesses viewed students simply as potential customers. Today, many of those students are also considered as partners in the businesses’ success — and vice versa.

Students in several business courses at the College are charged with class assignments in which they work directly with Clinton County businesses and non-profit organizations.

It’s a “win-win,” say the Business Department’s Dr. Steven A. Stovall and Dr. Angela Mitchell.

“The business owners sometimes go into it thinking, ‘They’re just college students,’ but they often come away with something valuable for their businesses,” said Mitchell, associate professor of business administration and area coordinator.

“Our students have bullet points of real experiences on their resumes,” added Stovall, associate professor of business administration and holder of the Stolle Chair in Entrepreneurship.

This past spring semester, Stovall and Mitchell instructed courses in Small Business Consulting and Marketing Research, respectively. Each class took on local clients.

Stovall said the idea behind the unique consulting course is to showcase for students the challenges faced by small businesses by assigning them to work on specific projects that the organizations “desperately need but don’t have the budget, time or staff to tackle on their own.”

The Murphy Theatre’s Tanya Snarr was thrilled with the project junior Jacob Spirk completed that featured the implementation of a volunteer database and training video.

“Volunteers from the community are essential to the Murphy and Jacob’s work will greatly benefit our volunteers and, in turn, make the theatre experience even better for our patrons,” she said.

Alma Plummer, owner/operator of Alma’s Cheese Barn at S.R. 73 and I-71, echoed those sentiments, as junior Stacey Volkman helped the business with Website and social media applications, in addition to offering suggestions on signage, billboards and presentation of retail items.

(LEFT) The banquet room at Damon's was filled with WC students and representatives of area businesses and organizations engaged in Speed Networking.

“Stacey is doing a great job. I thank God for sending her to me,” Hammond said, noting that Volkman was so interested in the project that she volunteered to continue through the summer.

“It’s a win-win as the business finally gets something done that was on the back burner and the student gets valuable real-world experience,” he said.

Students in Mitchell’s Marketing Research class selected six Wilmington businesses this spring for which they engaged in such activities as conducting customer satisfaction evaluations, test marketing of new ideas/promotions/products, and understanding customer demographics or purchasing habits.

“Business clients don't have the time to work on this research, so our students gain valuable real experience, build their resumes and develop their network of business professionals,” Mitchell said.

This past year, students in Stovall’s Human Resources Management and marketing faculty member Ellen Novar’s Advertising classes also worked with local businesses and organizations.

Mitchell said these experiences differentiate Wilmington College from many other institutions.

“Our students are not taking any different courses than students at other schools, and there are internships everywhere, but we embed hands-on experiences as part of our classes,” she said, adding that these hone students’ planning, organization and problem-solving skills, and complement what is learned in the classroom.

“They can really experience both the challenge and benefits of working,” Mitchell added. “We’ve had such good feedback: ‘Your students are so good. I’ve worked with students from other colleges and universities, and your students did much better quality work.’”

Stovall noted that his students have had job offers after working with local businesses.

“An employer has two candidates with similar GPAs. How do we make that Wilmington College student stand out? We give them hands-on experiences as part of their classes — that’s hard to duplicate at a big school.”

Other manifestations of the close relationship between WC and the business community can be seen in this spring’s Speed-Networking and Business Breakfast Briefing events.

Members of the Wilmington Clinton County Chamber of Commerce interacted one-to-one with WC students via “speed-networking.”

It featured a time sensitive forum in which the students and the prospective employer shared with one another the most pertinent information within a five-minute period. When the bell rang, the students moved to speak with another businessperson and continued these timed interactions for about 45 minutes.

A less frenetic event is the Business Breakfast Briefing, at which business leaders enjoy breakfast at the College while meeting casually with faculty and offering insight into such topics as resume strategies, communication expectations and other proficiencies that employers are seeking from new college graduates.

“That type of interaction with persons in the business community makes us better professors,” Stovall said. “We’re out shaking hands and learning what’s on their minds.”

Mitchell concurred. “Business as a discipline changes all the time. We want to know we’re teaching the right things and these interactions keep us closer to what we’re teaching.”

Coming June 6, the College will host the monthly Economic Alliance breakfast meeting.