Furniture For Families: For BIS Majors, One Project Has Major Impact

Reprinted with permission from ISU College of Business News & Views Magazine

Associate Professor Rosie Hauck’s Advanced Business Systems Analysis class is all about bridging business needs with technology solutions. It also offers a great deal of real-world, practical experience for those majoring in business information systems (BIS).

Each semester, Hauck works with a local organization in the community to improve some kind of business process. Her students spend the semester working with the chosen organization to identify challenges and implement solutions. The ultimate goal is to pull all their classes together, such as marketing, management, accounting, and technology, into somewhat of a capstone project.

“It’s a great culminating experience for the major, internships, and classes,” said Hauck. “This gives students a chance to use everything they’ve learned with a real organization.”

In the past, Hauck’s classes have worked with a variety of local organizations including the Baby Fold, Vitesse Cycle, Epiphany Farms, and Miller Park Zoo. “Small businesses and nonprofits don’t have a lot of resources to do systems development,” she said. “Our BIS students have knowledge and expertise. Plus, this is a great way to give back to the community.”

Hauck’s most recent spring 2017 class partnered with Recycling Furniture for Families (RF4F), an organization that accepts and distributes furniture to families living at or below the poverty line.

RF4F was in need of new data systems to help the organization grow. “Our systems were created many years ago; they have limited memory and an outdated database structure,” according to Executive Director Frank Downes. “We needed something that could be modified easily with the changing needs of the community.”

Recycling Furniture for Families Executive Director Frank Downes

Hauck’s students helped RF4F with an inventory-tracking system, improved its client database, and created an interface that streamlined the process for gathering client and volunteer information.

To get a true real-world experience, Hauck ensures her students have complete ownership of the project. “They get to decide what is best for the client and what deliverables will be valuable,” she said. “It’s their opportunity to step away from being a student and serve as a professional, working with real people and real solutions.”

In addition to practical experience, students graduate as a certified ScrumMaster (CSM). This project management credential is valuable in the workplace as it fosters collaboration and productivity for high levels of performance. Hauck incorporates Scrum into her class as a way to approach projects in a nontraditional manner. It also allows students (and professionals) to deliver a product in a short amount of time.

“We only have eight weeks to complete a project, and since I’ve used Scrum, I can tell students are able to deliver so much more,” Hauck said. “The client is getting a better value, and we’re able to go a lot further when it comes to implementation. It’s a very usable system.”

Kristen Dunne and Tyler Walgren were part of Hauck’s class and are grateful for the practical experience they received.

“The class taught us how to work with real-world problems, which helped us grow personally and professionally,” Dunne said.

Walgren added: “It was unreal compared to any other experience.”

The “real problems” Dunne and Walgren faced were everything a true professional might encounter, including group communication, technical challenges, and stressful timelines. And just like a professional, they had to use the issues as a learning experience.

“There were a lot of ‘I don’t knows,’” Walgren said. “If we didn’t know how to do something, we had to learn it.”

Encountering those kinds of issues made students unsure of what the outcome would be, but in the end, it was worth it.

“To see ourselves overcoming a learning curve and our products implemented is the coolest thing. I can’t wait to watch people benefit from them,” Dunne said.

Thanks in part to the experience of Hauck’s class, both Dunne and Walgren graduated in May with jobs as support engineers at iManage, a leading provider of work product management solutions for professional service firms.

“Dr. Hauck and her class definitely helped us in this aspect,” Walgren said. “This gave us real-world experience and was a great talking point.”

The efforts of Dunne, Walgren and the rest of Hauck’s class will likely have a major positive impact on RF4F. Downes said the systems this project produced will allow the organization to have a solid foundation to run well into the future.

“I hope the students were able to see the impact that organizations like Recycling Furniture for Families have in their communities and how important their knowledge and experience can be to help nonprofits fulfill their mission to the communities,” Downes said.

If you would like to support programs like this, please consider contributing to the Recycling Furniture for Families Fund. To donate online, click here.