April 19, 2012 -- The College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES) at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls (UWRF) is seeking businesses and organizations which 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.
Last semester's clients included the Land Stewardship Project (LSP), a non-profit organization committed to promoting sustainable agriculture and sustainable communities. Karen Stettler, LSP program organizer, summarized her experience with the class: "I went into the experience with a really open mind, not knowing the farming background or educational pursuits of the students. The students were very professional and took their responsibilities seriously. The focus of this work was beyond agriculture and amazingly there was a student with film background that was perfect. I believe all of us learned and grew during the semester working together. I would highly recommend this experience to others and would definitely consider taking another opportunity to work with the UW-River Falls students in the future."
Jim Schreiber of Miles to Ride, LLC, a River Falls enterprise that provides an equestrian experience for disabled adults, had the students draft a business plan for a business that would provide jobs to disabled adults. Schreiber said, "The Experiential Learning course was a wonderful starting tool that provided meaningful in-depth research by UWRF students for our new venture. We enjoyed multiple interactions with our highly committed students throughout the semester. This course provided a definite symbiotic relationship between community members and the UWRF students."
If you are interested in having your project considered for fall semester 2012, contact Juliet Tomkins, UWRF adjunct professor, at 715-425-3298 or email firstname.lastname@example.org by May 11.