UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN River Falls

Experiential Learning Course Seeks Projects

Nov. 9, 2011--The College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES) at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls (UWRF) is seeking businesses and organizations that have projects they would like teams of university students to tackle, under the guidance of faculty mentors, as part of an Experiential Learning course.

Each semester CAFES offers this course that requires teams of students to apply their academic skills to the completion of a project defined by a business or an organizational client. This course is typically taken in the student’s senior year and is the culmination of the student's academic career. It is intended that the experience of completing this project will bridge the gap between the student's academic and professional careers.

The benefits to the business/organizational client include having more than 600 student person hours devoted to a project with possible end products being feasibility studies, design analyses, financial analyses, business plans, marketing plans and prototypes. In the course of their work, project teams draw on the expertise of faculty mentors and other UWRF faculty and staff. In addition, Steve DeWald, director of the UWRF Small Business Development Center, mentors the students on multiple aspects of business planning and feasibility studies. Clients are generally expected to pay a small fee to cover the cost of producing the deliverables.

Examples of past projects include students creating a business plan for a local brewpub, researching the potential of a community kitchen in River Falls for the Local Food Partnership, a community organization, and developing resource materials for a potential Farm to School program for the River Falls School District Food Service Advisory Council.

Recently Mark and Diana Alfuth, owners of Painted Hollow Farm in western Wisconsin, wanted to learn the financial ramifications of utilizing different types of production on their farm. As a result, they had two groups of students develop different farm plans.

"It was fantastic working with enthusiastic young people who are interested in applying what they learned to a real-life situation," Mark said at the completion of the project. "We were impressed with their extensive research and thoroughness in dealing with the project objectives.  It was nice to hear about current up-to-date thinking in the marketplace and concepts with each option."

"We have already begun to explore the options further and, because of the work of the students, will absolutely implement a good deal of their work," Mark said.  "The level of their work product and ideas exceeded our expectations."

If you are interested in having your project considered for spring semester 2013, contact Juliet Tomkins, adjunct professor, at 715-425-3298 or juliet.tomkins@uwrf.edu by Nov. 30.

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