Community partners come to campus for project presentations

Posted on May 14th, 2014 by

Representing a significant time, talent and development investment, three community partners came to Beck Hall to hear Organizational Behavior students’ final project presentations. Members of Lifeworks, the Gustavus G-Club, and the American Swedish Institute all cheerfully came to Beck 301 to learn not only of their own project outcomes, but to hear and participate in discussion about other projects. The reciprocity standard of community-based learning was also fulfilled: students’ projects offered tangible and substantial value for each community partner’s organization. They were just fantastic. As students introduced themselves, I was reminded that some of them are underclassmen, but their work shone like presentation veterans!

The Lifeworks group [Heidi Herness ’14, Brenton Jayasuriya ’16, and Mitch Nelson ’14] was charged with researching best practices in engaging a remote workforce, and presenting recommendations to the Lifeworks executives. During their research, they found interesting employee turnover patterns that led them in a different direction, and contributed to workable, affordable, and high-impact recommendations. Among the most promising was for Lifeworks to make their YouTube library more robust for training as well as fundraising, and to implement the tool Yammer, an umbrella technology that offers many of the solutions they need to connect with their employees.

The G-Club team, enthusiastically managed by Maggie Hedlund ’09 in Advancement, was responsible for benchmarking athletic fundraising among peer and aspirant schools. Their survey had a 25% response rate, which was terrific considering the complex nature of the survey. Their overriding question was, How are other schools raising money for supporting athletic inclusion and opportunities for each sport? I learned a lot, and their presentation generated a ton of discussion among all of our community partners because each of them needs fundraising information! The team [Tim Anderson ’16, Robbie D’Amato ’16, Scott Newby ’16, Aaron O’Neill ’16, Adam Wiesner ’14, and Kurt Youngdahl ’15] did a terrific job of not only presenting findings, but really diving into the data to find opportunities and make some possible revenue projections. Their key finding was that sponsored advertising in intentional, measured ways could represent an untapped revenue support source. Our discussion really centered on managing that line that Gustavus wants to maintain to make sure we do not become so corporatized that our name and brand are diminished. I thought the team did a wonderful job engaging in conversation with Maggie and the entire class.

The American Swedish Institute sent six members to hear students’ research outcomes– we are so appreciative of their engagement! The ASI team [Siana Adrain ’14, Tana Erickson ’15, Jenni Harms ’14, Nathan Ruckle ’15, and Blake Schmidt ’16] created a membership survey instrument that ASI sent to its entire membership of 4600 households. As of presentation time, ASI had received an incredible 1400 + surveys returned– a 30% response rate. And, the team alertly Clearly the ASI folks were right when they said they needed to engage their membership in a survey! As the team presented their findings, it was clear that demographics in ASI’s membership had a quite different experience with that organization than newer members; the team shared some bi-modal outcomes that the ASI executives believe will be critical to understanding for their strategic direction going forward. The team shared interesting member opinions of the entire range of ASI services and benefits, including the Fika restaurant, events at ASI and the exhibits they display. Peggy Korsmo-Kennon, ASI’s CFO, commented to me after the presentation that if ASI had not been energized by the student project, they would still be in the discussion stage of the survey rather than having the data already flowing in. I am delighted with the value the student team provided, strengthening Gustavus’ relationship with a partner we will have for a very long time!


Thanks to everyone for participating, and also to some of the Gustavus team for coming to support this important student work: Jeffrey Rathlef, Director of Community Based Service and Learning; Barb Larson Taylor, Director of the CSL, and Jeff Owen, Chair of Econ & Management.


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