This past spring semester, business students at the Calumet College of Saint Joseph partnered with the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Northwest Indiana to engage in a student-run project that will have a long-term, positive impact on the clubs in the area. Through focus groups and final reports, the students had the unique opportunity not only to learn a ton, but also to improve the lives of local kids.
“Every spring I look for some type of experiential learning project that could be done in the community,” said Desila Rosetti, a business management professor at Calumet College of St. Joseph, who organized this experience for her students. “Usually it’s based on what the organization's needs are, it’s based on the size of the class that semester, and it aims to apply one or more skills that they have been acquiring in college.”
The Boys and Girls Clubs of the region proved to be a perfect fit. The organization recently went through the process of merging their efforts under one entity, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana. This was the ideal time to re-evaluate the clubs’ practices and strive for improvement.
“Our organization constantly surveys and monitors opinions of our Club members via surveys and interviews to ensure they are receiving an optimal Club experience,” said Kris Condon, Chief Human Resource Officer at the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Northwest Indiana. “An opportunity to take our research a step further with focus groups was within our ‘feedback, change and growth’ strategy and the fact we were offered this service at no-charge was an amazing gift to us.”
The project was conducted over the course of seven weeks from March to April. After receiving focus group training, the 18 students of Rosetti’s “Strategic Business Management” class ventured out to six regional Boys and Girls Club locations. There, the students led focus groups to get feedback from both kids and teens on their overall experience with the program. The students then formulated multiple reports and presented Boys and Girls Club staff members with recommendations that could improve the clubs individually and as a whole.
“[It confirmed] the importance of key elements of the ‘magic’ that happens inside our Clubhouses,” said Condon. “For example, a recurring theme was the important relationships youth build with our Club staff. Proving that while our outcomes of building the next generation of Northwest Indiana leaders is paramount, it’s important we continue to provide caring mentors who teach life lessons.”
Over the course of the project, the students grew both academically and professionally. The experience gave them the unique opportunity to lead a project that will have real-world implications, as opposed to existing merely in the world of academia.
“While our youth club members had the closest interaction with the CCSJ students, the CCSJ students were both professional and dedicated to the research project assigned,” said Condon. “Their findings were presented to us in both a written and verbal presentation, both of which could have easily rivaled the output from paid consultants. We were very impressed and proud of the Strategic Management students, knowing they are the great future leaders of our Region, State, and Country.”
Zach Slosser, a senior Business Management student, found that he learned much more from this class by participating in this project.
“I like how Desila brings us to outside sources so you’re not just looking in books; you actually gain experience from it,” he said. “I wish there was more of that throughout college instead of just reading books. Colleges really should learn from this. It inspires us college kids to learn when you’re helping the community.”
Katie Rubright, another senior studying Business Management, was also strongly impacted by the experience.
“I’ve never been a part of a focus group, and I’ve never had to lead a focus group either, and I believe that with this, you can get a lot out of just doing focus groups and following up with reports. It can really help a company,” she said.
For both Slosser and Rubright, the class and the project gave them the opportunity to try something new, to develop skills fostered in college, and to have a major impact on the community.
“That’s what brought excitement to the project,” said Slosser. “I think all of us were very excited about actually working with people outside of school and seeing what we could do for the community.”
“Just knowing that what we did is actually going to improve the lives of these kids and will make a difference in the company... That’s the biggest takeaway,” said Rubright.
For more information about Calumet College of St. Joseph, please visit www.ccsj.edu, and for more information about the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Northwest Indiana, please visit www.bgcgreaternwi.org.