by Whitney Frasier
Over the last 23 years more than 7,000 senior business students have gained valuable and authentic business experience through a unique College of Business Administration (CoBA) program that pairs seniors with local and national companies to lead and implement real world projects. Now, for the first time in more than two decades, students from other majors across CSUSM are invited to participate in Senior Experience.
The program change, implemented last fall, aims to broaden the spectrum of projects available to students and sponsors alike, allowing for the growth and increased variety of project types as well as new sponsors.
“Having multidisciplinary teams across various colleges is desirable, rather than all students who have the same major,” said Ed Ashley, director of business community engagement for CoBA. “Working with other colleges takes the diversity of disciplines to a new level, which is more like the real world where we work with people of all educational backgrounds.”
Historically, CoBA has had to decline a number of community partner projects simply because they required disciplines other than business or not enough student teams were available. By allowing other colleges to participate, not only can the program accept more projects, but also the sponsoring organizations receive an even richer solution to their respective projects.
“For example, we conducted an intercollege project for the DLH Foundation,” said Ashley.“The DLH Foundation provides support for patients and families of patients with gastroesophageal cancer. Their project last semester was to produce an informative video to get the word out about the disease. We matched CoBA students with health majors in the Department of Human Development. The human development students brought domain knowledge about the subject that we simply don’t teach in CoBA. Consequently, the sponsor received work that encompassed the marketing elements of CoBA and the health and counseling knowledge of the College of Education, Health and Human Studies.”
Elizabeth Bigham, a human development lecturer and faculty advisor, was one of the first multidisciplinary advisors for Senior Experience.
“As the word spreads about the change to the program, multidisciplinary team projects are expected to grow across campus as they provide opportunities for active learning in environments similar to real workplace situations,” she said. “The interactions with actual clients and businesses gives the students an opportunity to apply what they have learned in a real yet supportive environment thereby giving them a sense of accomplishment through hard work, responsiveness to feedback and guidance, and teamwork.”
Moving forward, Bigham said she will recommend Senior Experience to her students because collaborating with students from a different major is a realistic simulation of what happens in the workplace, where training and perspectives are different yet, through communication, each employee can identify and appreciate the value of different strengths and perspectives.
“Faculty members can also gain through this collaboration as the students and faculty from CoBA bring a different perspective and skills to the joint challenge,” said Bigham. “This is consistent with our University mission of active engagement in the learning process. And it is another important aspect, or analogy, of diversity.”
Any faculty or student interested in participating in Senior Experience should contact Ed Ashley at 760-750-4266 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
“My hope is that the entire campus will eventually work together with CoBA on Senior Experience projects,” said Ashley “We would like to keep CoBA involved, but we would also like to get even more diverse projects for students. We also hope the program will serve as a model for other colleges to follow and further develop on their own.”