While traditional classroom settings complete with desks and PowerPoint presentations enable students to learn the fundamental skills needed to earn their degrees, no one can deny the value of hands-on learning experiences— especially when those experiences enable students to help others in their community.
For this reason, the University of Nebraska at Omaha offers service-learning courses, which combine classroom instruction with community service projects designed to correspond with a student’s field of study.
For students in the College of Business Administration, Professor Jonna Holland’s marketing and communications service learning class provides an excellent opportunity to learn valuable business skills. The class incorporates collaboration with an area business to host an event that raises money for local non-profits.
Holland, who has been teaching this service learning class for three years, allows students to choose which local businesses and charities they want to work with. This teaches them the marketing and advertising skills needed to successfully plan their fundraising events in a way that supports the local businesses participating.
“The business agrees to support this cause, which helps out the business’ image and builds loyalty,” Holland said. “By planning and promoting these events, the students have practice with every single one of the marketing communications channels and real-life experiences.”
For students like junior marketing and management major Austin Andrie-Grondek, the real-life experience gained from participating in the service-learning project has enabled him to gain a new understanding of his future career.
“Contract negotiation can be particular. Making copy for any advertisements in general is a lot of work,” Andrie-Grondek said. “There’s a lot of situations where what you think and what actually transpires can be two different things, so the ability to see what you’re learning in action is vital to the learning process.”
According to Holland, the service-learning project is based on the “Carrotmob” concept, other-wise known as a “buycott,” which is the opposite of a boycott.
“It [a Carrotmob] combines two ideas,” Holland said. “You want to motivate people with a carrot rather than a stick, so a benefit rather than a punishment and the mob being like a flash mob or some sort of group action.”
In the case of the students’ service learning projects, the “carrot” used to motivate customers to shop at the participating businesses is an incentive of some kind such as a special discount or raffle prizes. This helps draw in the mob, and raises awareness about the charity event going on at the business. In turn, this builds up customer loyalty.
For participating business owner Martha Barbour of Roast Coffee-house, the opportunity to support the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Midlands by working with the UNO students on a fundraiser is worth more than being able to promote her business.
“I’m not doing it to grow my business. I’m doing it to grow awareness of Boys and Girls Club, and what their needs are and how we can support them,” Barbour said. “Roast and The Hill of Beans Coffee Roasters are thrilled to partner with UNO … investing in future coffee drinkers one cup at a time.”
According to the UNO Service Learning Academy’s website, service learning classes help students learn valuable skills such as responsibility, communication and teamwork. These skills are important for success in their future careers, which is why UNO offers a wide variety of courses in order to meet the needs of all students.
Holland encourages those who can make it to attend the last of her students’ fundraising events. The remaining events are The Green Spot fundraiser for the Hearts United for Animals on April 22, and the Roast fundraiser to raise money for the Boys and Girls Club of the Midlands on April 24.