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Service-learning Gets Down to Business

Boise State student, Professor Kathy Hurley and a tax return client
Boise State student, Professor Kathy Hurley and a tax return client

The Service-Learning program connects classrooms with the community to enhance student learning, address critical community issues and encourage students to be active citizens in their local, national and global communities. In the 2016-17 school year, 251 students participated in 10 service learning classes working on projects such as helping with tax returns, creating marketing campaigns to raise money for Interfaith Sanctuary and organizing an open house gala for Meridian Canine Rescue.

Instructor Kathy Hurley and accounting students have helped to prepare tax returns for low-income individuals and households in the community. This is the fifth year the accounting department has offered the program which integrates service-learning methodology. Throughout tax season, students firm up their basic knowledge of federal tax rules and regulations, learn to interview taxpayers to obtain critical information, and practice using tax preparation software.  Students develop professional skills through client interaction and practice ethical behavior.

“Students also gain leadership and logistical skills as they have an active role in weekly site setup, operations management and planning for continuous improvement,” Hurley said. “By working with a culturally and economically diverse population, students become aware of the benefits and rewards of civic engagement, and providing valuable services to their community.”

Associate Professor Brian McNatt utilized service-learning as the key element of the Leadership and Personal Development management course. Management students worked on teams on a variety of projects.

One team made eight short video clips for the Women’s & Children’s Alliance to raise awareness and educate regarding safe dating and healthy relationships. Student work included scriptwriting, casting, location scouting, filming and editing.


girl with dog

Several teams did projects for the Meridian Canine Rescue, a no-kill organization that recently moved to a larger location. Students sought organizational sponsorships and other donations and aided with the organization, set-up, and staffing of the open house gala for the rescue’s new location.

Boise Bicycle Project benefited from students helping with renovations at their site, conducting a donation drive for used bicycles and contacting companies to encourage them to become official bicycle friendly workplaces.

Another team organized and conducted a tour of Boise State University for elementary school students whose primary language isn’t English. The tour included presentations from and interactions with Boise State international students, hands-on activities and lunch. These elementary school students are part of a demographic with low college attendance rates. The team’s aim was to target kids at a young age, create excitement and encourage them to pursue college.

“Service-learning is a major win-win,” said McNatt. “The students are able to practice the concepts learned in class and expand their skill. The students are beaming during their presentations at the end of the semester as they explain the awesome things they did for someone else, and as they realize how much they grew in the process.”

Allison Miller presenting marketing plan
Allison Miller presenting to marketing class

Students in the Marketing Communications course split into teams and created marketing plans to increase recurring donations for Interfaith Sanctuary. The instructor, Leslie Koppenhafer commented on the project.

“I do service-learning in my class because it is important for students to understand that there are many ways to give back to the communities they live in and that they have an obligation to try to make the communities they live in better places. Interfaith Sanctuary is doing incredibly important work serving some of the most marginalized people in our community. IFS had to make an incredibly tough decision to forgo federal funding in order to stay true to their organizational mission. I was fully confident that my students had the capacity and talent to design and deliver a creative marketing campaign for them focused on increasing their number of recurring donors. It was a pleasure to work with such a mission-driven organization run by passionate people,” Koppenhafer said.

Marketing students reported they learned to utilize education to improve the quality of life of others and to keep in mind someone’s business is on the line. Students agreed it is nice to work with a real organization that truly cares about your thoughts and ideas.

One marketing student summed it up this way, “I figured out that it was not just a good grade I was after. I learned how to think differently. My learning style changed, my writing changed, my research methods became more thorough, and the way I approached ideas and problems changed. The way I take on a project has changed and been enhanced because of this service-learning.”