Posted 7 a.m. Monday, Nov. 1, 2021

UWL Associate Professor Dan Plunkett's "Civic Engagement in the Recreation Profession" class partners with the City of La Crosse Parks, Recreation & Forestry Department, the UWL Athletics Department and the Coulee Region Tennis Association in spring 2021 to help the organizations better understand interest in and support for a new indoor tennis facility. This was the first class that piloted the community engaged learning concept at UWL.

Why community organizations and businesses should seek help from students, faculty for special projects 

Many businesses, non-profits and civic organizations are taking advantage of collaborations with UW-La Crosse. The university had 424 partner agencies in 2019-20, according to its Institutional Research community engagement report. 

These collaborations not only benefit students, but also the community.

“When students go off campus, they realize there are opportunities right here in the La Crosse area,” says Lisa Klein, UWL’s community engagement coordinator. “They meet great employers who are looking for the talent from UWL, and that sometimes leads to a decision to stay in the area for work after they graduate.” 

Here are the top five ways organizations benefit from partnering. 

  1. Leverage instructor expertise and student enthusiasm to address needs at low (or no) cost. UWL is home to experts in areas such as sociology and criminal justice; professional writing; mathematics & statistics; biology; marketing; management; information systems; recreation management; and more. Faculty teaching these subjects are life-long learners who often incorporate real-world community experiences into their classrooms or into their own professional growth. Partnering provides invaluable experiences for all and tangible outcomes for the community partner. 
  2. Get help on short term and special projects from student volunteers, interns, or a course-embedded project.  Partnering allows university students and faculty to help an organization solve a problem or answer a question while not adding more work to the plates of current employees. Projects on a university campus are typically short-term, fitting into a semester or 15-week period. In some cases, longer projects involve multiple student groups or classes over the course of several semesters. Organizations and businesses should consider projects that fit into a shorter timeframe and are outside of the organization’s typical workflow and job descriptions.  
  3. Support student learning through practical application of student knowledge and skills. Partnering businesses and organizations provide a real-world experience for students that prepares them for their future. These experiences go beyond knowledge in a particular discipline. Students learn how to communicate with professionals outside of the classroom, think about how to solve problems in novel ways, and work in situations outside of their comfort zone. Through these experiences they are building an important set of job skills that are valuable to employers. 
  4. Identify potential new employees. Working with a classroom of students or working one-on-one with a student, allows employers an opportunity to identify a student who has the particular skillset they are looking for in their future workforce. It also gives students time to engage off campus, learn about the community, and appreciate opportunities to work locally. 
  5. Increase your visibility on campus. With a serious labor shortage impacting the region and the nation, having a relationship with faculty and students on campus is a form of marketing. For example, students may not know that the Hunger Task Force exists, but when they partner with an organization like this and begin to understand its goals, it opens students’ eyes to the mission and importance of that organization. They may come to value that work and talk to friends about the organization as well. It is a great networking opportunity.  

Want to work together? 

Learn more about partnering with UWL or share your project collaboration idea with UWL on the UWL Community Idea Exchange website. The deadline for community partners to submit project ideas on the Idea Exchange for the spring 2022 semester is Monday, Nov. 15.