Win-Win — Sharing Business Skill with Community Partners

The Boise State Service-Learning program connects classrooms with the community to enhance student learning and give community partners assistance they need – a win-win endeavor.

girl with dog

In the 2018-19 school year, College of Business and Economics students participated in 14 Service-Learning classes working on projects such as creating marketing campaigns, organizing a fundraising event for Wishes for Warriors and Boise State Veteran Services, clothing and food drive for Boise Rescue Mission, yard sale to benefit Gate of Hope and more.

Brain McNatt, associate professor in the Department of Management, is a true believer in the service-learning model.

“I had some wonderful students this semester who completed some great projects for the community and enhanced their professional skill sets,” said McNatt. “In summary, 16 teams of students completed projects consisting of 1,175 hours of services and raising $14,875 in cash and items donated to non-profit organizations.”

Kathy Hurley, a lecturer in the Department of Accountancy, reported 280 hours of direct client contact hours from her service-learning students in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistant (VITA) program. Plus each student spent 10-15 hours getting IRS certification.

“Our VITA program is unique because it is a partnership with a number of organizations – the Boise Public Library!, Boise Public Schools, International Rescue Committee, University of Idaho Law School, and the IRS – and it is run by students,” said Hurley. “The experience is very valuable because students must be patient and flexible as each client and tax return is unique. They learn invaluable customer service skills along with tax knowledge.” (Read more about VITA here.)

Joanna Gabler, visiting assistant professor in the Department of Marketing, led her marketing communication students in projects with Corpus Christi House, a day shelter for the homeless population in Boise.

“Ten teams (46 students) tackled the challenge of designing a campaign to make Treasure Valley residents aware of Corpus Christi House and encourage donations of time and/or money to the organization. Marketing communication students spent 700 hours this semester working on these campaigns and provided Corpus Christi House with several promising ideas to explore,” reported Gabler.

Global Scholars in Australia
Global Scholars in Australia

Jennifer Thomsen, adjunct professor in the international business program, traveled to Australia with the Global Scholars Program, an international Service-Learning course, to consult with organizations that are fighting to protect the Great Barrier Reef.

“The students were able to experience the challenges and rewards of networking with companies internationally, collaborating with organizations that work outside of typically taught corporate structure, as well as learning social-cultural and political impacts on business practice,” said Thomsen,

Samia Islam added service learning to her Urban Economics class to provide her students an opportunity to apply their learning to practical problem-solving. This year’s community partner was City of Boise. Projects included:

  • Collecting primary data on user behavior and user sentiments on e-scooters in Boise
  • Examining Boise State University’s role in addressing the affordable housing crisis in Boise.
  • Evaluating impact and stakeholder perceptions on closing 8th Street to auto traffic and making the area pedestrian only.

“[This class] made me fall in love with economics even more.”

— Kate Carter-Cram, a junior in global studies with an economics minor

“Because Boise State is a metro university, our students can work with Boise urban planning agencies solving real problems,” said Islam. “I particularly value that this experience exposes students to working in a professional setting, which includes not just the research but also communicating with clients, writing a report for stakeholders, and presenting their research findings at Boise State’s annual undergraduate research conference.

COBE Dean Mark Bannister appreciates the value of service-learning and the dedication of COBE faculty that teach it.

“I appreciate faculty who incorporate service-learning in their classes; it often takes more time and effort,” said Bannister. “Such teaching benefits students and the greater community. Pedagogical research recognizes service-learning as a high engagement practice and many non-profits and other organizations provide testimonials of the value that student service-learning has provided their organizations. I thank our service-learning instructors for giving our students the opportunity to learn, to connect, and to understand that they can make a difference through applying their emerging knowledge and skills.”

COBE Service-Learning Classes and Instructors:

  • ACCT 485, 585 – Volunteer Income Tax Preparation, Kathy Hurley instructor
  • BUS 410 – Advanced Topics in Management, Brian McNatt instructor
  • ECON 431, 531 – Regional Economics, Michail Fragkias instructor
  • ECON 432, 532 – Urban Economics, Samia Islam instructor
  • INTBUS 497 – Global Scholars Program, Jennifer Thomsen instructor
  • MKTG 407 – Marketing Communications, Joanna Gabler instructor
  • MKTG 407 – Marketing Communications, Leslie Koppenhafer instructor
  • NONPROF 240 – Nonprofit Management, Jaime Hansen instructor
  • NONPROF 240 – Intro to Nonprofit Management, Wyatt Schroeder instructor
  • NONPROF 340, 440 – Volunteer Mgmt & the Nonprofit, Kathleen L McDonald instructor

"No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted." —Aesop

Boise State Service-Learning mission

is to connect classrooms with the community through capacity-building partnerships in order to enhance student learning, address critical community issues, and encourage students to be active citizens in their local, national and global communities.