ABERDEEN, S.D. – About 30 Northern State University students collaborated to present marketing and promotional ideas to the United Way of Northeastern South Dakota – including the creation of a new community event and a new educational trail for children.
Students presented their proposal to the United Way of Northeastern South Dakota Board of Directors on Wednesday, Nov. 15. Hannah Walters, instructor of marketing in the NSU School of Business, said she enjoyed seeing the students apply what they learned in the classroom.
“We can talk about the chapters, we can talk about the concepts, but seeing them all work together – having that real-world experience – was so rewarding,” she said.
Among the students’ ideas was an educational trail at an Aberdeen park that would be designed by NSU art students and would feature curriculum created by students of the Millicent Atkins School of Education. The trail would be similar to United Way Born Learning Trails, which include interactive signs featuring fun learning activities. A Born Learning Trail is located in Aberdeen’s Aldrich Park.
Live United Night Proposed
Another idea from the group is the creation of a Live United Night at a Wolves basketball game this season. This community event would feature an informational table, program inserts about the United Way and Live United T-shirts. Walters said the goal would be to increase brand awareness among college students so that when they graduate, they will be more likely to participate in an employer contribution program.
Walters’ nonprofit marketing and integrated marketing communications classes participated in the collaborative project. Other classes involved were: an early childhood education class taught by Dr. Andria Moon, assistant professor of elementary education/early childhood; a marketing research class taught by Dr. Amber Mathern, assistant professor of marketing/management; and a graphic design class taught by Sara Christensen Blair, professor of art and chair of the Department of Art and Theater.
While NSU classes have worked on projects for local businesses before, Walters said this was the first that involved students from five classes across campus.
“This one really expanded the borders between classes and schools,” she said.
Students Gained Real-World Experience
Megan Lero, a senior marketing and management major from St. Francis, Minn., said it was great to get first-hand experience in working with a nonprofit company.
“I just really liked the real-life experience,” Lero said. “Instead of just doing a project about the organization, we worked with the organization.”
Bryce Roberts, a senior marketing major from Highmore, said he also loved that it was a real-life situation – and that students got to present to an actual board of directors.
“It was a real board of directors doing real work in our community that we got to leave a little footprint on,” he said.
The students’ ideas were well-received by the United Way board, including board member and NSU President Dr. Tim Downs.
“This is a great example of cross-departmental collaboration, which benefits the United Way and provides our students real-world experience,” Downs said. “NSU is proud to work alongside the United Way of Northeastern South Dakota on a variety of projects. Each year, our student-athletes volunteer more than 1,000 hours for the Day of Champions. A big thank you to those students and to the professors and coaches who help coordinate the efforts.”
Win-Win for NSU, United Way
Aaron Schultz, executive director of the United Way of Northeastern South Dakota, said the project was a “win-win situation” for the students and the United Way.
“To be able to have a unique perspective from students coming in and looking at our organization and giving their feedback is an incredible asset for us,” Schultz said.
The board will now sit down and look at implementing some of the students’ suggestions. Schultz hopes the partnership between NSU and the United Way will continue.
“The intellectual capital that is housed at Northern needs to be utilized by our community, and especially our nonprofits,” he said.
Roberts gets to continue working with the United Way – he will intern for the organization next semester, and he hopes to be able to help implement some of the students’ ideas.
Faculty are Helpful, Supportive
Roberts, who graduates in May, said he has loved his time at Northern. Faculty from the School of Business are always there for him if he has questions or concerns.
“They’re able to give us real-life experiences but at the same time lecture classes so that we can learn the material and then put it all together,” he said. “The classes are small enough so that we get to know our professors, and it’s just been wonderful.”
Lero, too, said School of Business professors are supportive and easy to talk to. Dr. Allen Barclay, assistant professor of management and marketing, helped her find a summer internship at Aberdeen Development Corp., and she has continued that internship this fall. He also let her know about study abroad opportunities in China, and she studied there this summer.
“It’s been so helpful to have the professors help me,” Lero said. “Not guide me, but steer me in the right direction, while letting me be independent.”
About Northern State University
Northern State University is a regional university that offers outstanding academics and exceptional extracurricular activities at an affordable price on a safe, welcoming campus. Northern State recently announced its Educational Impact Campaign, with a goal of raising $45 million for a new South Dakota School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, new athletic and recreation fields, and an on-campus regional sports complex. Once the campaign is complete, NSU will be the recipient of more than $100 million in privately funded building projects and scholarships within a decade. To learn more, visit NSU Admissions.