Business Students UnplugBusiness Students Unplug
School of Business students teamed up in an Organization Development & Change class to serve as consults to ongoing organizations.

How about these energy-saving efforts in Ithaca’s residence halls?

Stickers at washing machines urging the cold-water setting.

Stickers at all light switches reminding you to turn the lights off when leaving the room.

A “room reduction” energy use sheet placed in every room.

They were among recommendations a student group presented to the college’s energy manager as part of its management seminar, “Organization Development & Change.” All three are being implemented. The light switch stickers project began in May.

“After working with five classmates for just a few months, our finding will likely make a difference in Ithaca College’s sustainability efforts,” said Kevin Teague ’11. “That’s pretty cool.”

In their final semester, 46 seniors enrolled in this School of Business capstone course for the management concentration, taught by management professor Linda Gasser. They broke into nine teams for a project serving as consultants to an ongoing organization. It’s a road test in applying the skills they’ve learned in college.

Like any task force in the business world, each team had to study an issue, gather data, interview stakeholders, identify key issues, create and present a series of action recommendations with justification (what to do, how, and why), and deliver written and oral reports. Those reports were presented to both the client and to the rest of the class, with each team member participating.

“This project changed me by helping me realize that what I have been learning over the years does actually matter in the real world,” said Matt Mees ’11. Mees, Teague and four classmates – Dana Butler, Ryan Lowe, Dan Macken, and Sara Rawson, all ’11 – called their consulting team Unplugged, signed a contract with college energy manager Michelle Jones to perform audits of residential units, adopted the team slogan “Turning it off turns us on,” and used a tree in a light bulb as team symbol.

“I have never completed a project more valuable than this,” said Rawson. “I am grateful that I got to experience what it is really like to have set deadlines, someone to report your progress to, and most importantly, that I was able to use the skills I have learned related to project management and team management.”

Four teams went off campus to find clients. Four others also stayed on campus. No matter where they worked, they found serving a client a gratifying experience.

Working for a business “gave the project a feeling that we were making a difference for our client’s company, which just so happened to be Ithaca College,” said Mees. “Also, it was the first project that I participated in that was not hypothetical. The information that we gathered and what we presented is going to be implemented immediately for the coming year.”

Working for the Office of Facilities – which manages operation of the campus of 669 acres, 2.3 million gross square feet of floor space, and 31 residence halls – Unplugged surveyed students about energy use in residential halls and generated intervention suggestions in three categories.

“We found that students wanted more knowledge and reminders regarding reducing energy use and other sustainable topics,” Unplugged wrote in its project summary. “In an effort to get the most out of this data we came up with several recommendations for interventions that span from simple stickers to remind students to turn off the lights to a mock energy bill for each room on campus so students can get a feel for how much it would cost if they were responsible for paying for the energy they use in the residence halls.”
After Unplugged presented its findings to Jones, she wrote to Gasser, “I was so impressed with their commitment to the project. Each student really participated in a meaningful way.

“The data and recommendations they provided to me are immediately impactful here on campus. I passed along my appreciation and delight with the quality of work they did and my ability to use the results to make a difference.”

The students appreciated the practical application of what they’d learned in college. “This legitimizes my experience with Ithaca so much more because there was a direct correlation between the schoolwork and the relationship we had with our client,” said Butler. “Our client was counting on our analysis of data to decide which step to take next.”

Said Mees: “Working for someone other than my professor felt different in the beginning. However, as time went on, it became more natural and helped give the group a better feel for what we are going to experience once we graduate.”

The seminar is a final preparation for the business world, said Teague: “I have more confidence presenting information to a professional. Two years ago, when I transferred into the school, I never thought about giving a strong, cogent presentation to a client that will actually have an effect on something other than my grade.”

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