More Than a Class Assignment

The Annual Career Fair is an exciting time at Davenport University for many students as they dress to impress recruiters from more than 70 employers and hope to land a great job. However, for students who do not have access to professional clothing, the Career Fair can be an intimidating and uncertain time.

From past experience, staff members knew that on average a dozen students are turned away from the Career Fair each year because of their lack of professional attire. They suspected that there was more to this problem than the students’ lack of awareness or unwillingness to comply with the dress code. That’s when a Davenport University staff member saw a student need that needed to be addressed and stepped in. Brandi Melkild, Regional Internship Manager, created the Panther PRC (Professional Resource Closet) to help.

“I started collecting clothing from staff and faculty, personally purchasing and donating second-hand clothing to have available to students to have before the Career Fair,” said Brandi. To help launch the project, Brandi turned to the Career Services Program Fund, which is largely supported by staff and faculty donors. With this backing, she was able to fund the items that were needed immediately before the 2017 Career Fair.

With tears in her eyes, Brandi said, “Every student who didn’t meet dress code was given the opportunity to immediately upgrade his or her outfit by visiting the closet. Every student had professional attire options.”

After the success in early 2017, Brandi wanted to expand the closet and ensure its sustainability. She presented the project as a business case to Professor Steve Bayus, Distinguished Adjunct in International Business, Marketing and Management and the facilitator for the business experiential learning class. BUSN 489 is a field experience class that students may take in place of an internship for programs like accounting, marketing and business management.

In the spring of 2017, the students were tasked with the role of consultants, developing a specific plan of operations and business design for a DU resource program located on the W.A. Lettinga Campus.

The project was expanded to include the case for carrying personal hygiene products and non-perishable food goods. Over the semester, the students researched similar offerings at other colleges, conducted an on-campus need survey and developed recommendations for staffing, generating student awareness, procuring inventory and budgeting.

The students and faculty involved in this project were personally invested and it became more than just a class assignment. Their needs assessment results highlighted the importance of a resource to address professional clothing needs as well as other resources on campus. Of 51 Davenport students interviewed, 36 percent wished they had a better fitting or more appropriate business clothes and 66 percent did not own a business jacket. In relation to the need for non-perishable food items, 24 percent of students interviewed reported skipping a meal because they couldn’t afford food and 47 percent reported spending the largest portion of their budget on food.

We need to be proactive to help our students battle hunger and clothing needs on campus,” said Jenny Hendricks, one of the undergraduate student consultants. “This service helps meet the short-term needs of students until they reach long-term independence.”

The next semester, after implementing the business plan the undergraduate class created for the resource closet, Brandi presented the idea to a master- level Project Management in an Operations Environment class taught by Justin Littlefield-Lawwill. The master’s level class sought a purposeful final project for the class and decided to build upon the undergraduate-level students’ work. They developed a project plan with a goal of operating the Panther PRC throughout the 2017–2018 academic year.

Thanks to guidance from the student projects, funding from the Career Services Resource Fund and many other generous donors and supporters, the Panther Professional Resource Closet is now available for students to utilize via Center for Campus Life or Career Services referral. The PRC is currently accepting donations of non-perishable food and business attire.

 

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