Students enrolled in Roberta McKee's promotional management class this semester are learning more than just promotion, they're getting hands on experience with building houses.
The class, which McKee has taught for the past eight years, is working to create a promotional plan for Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit that builds houses for people in need.
McKee selects a different organization for her students to help each semester and says the hands-on experience is a new component of her curriculum. The students, who meet with the client during class sessions, had the opportunity to assist on one of the Wichita build sites.
"It felt great to lend a hand in helping the community," says senior Bao Vo.
The class has worked for a variety of organizations, from the Wichita Indo-Chinese Center to the Alzheimer's Association. McKee says she has never struggled to find an organization to help out.
The class meets with the client at the beginning of the semester at their business, which McKee says gives students a certain amount of confidence.
"When they go out into the real world, they are able to look at their experiences and say, 'I've done this before,'" McKee says. "It brings education to life."
The students begin their project by gathering background information on the client and researching their target markets. Half the class will pursue donations for items to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, and the other half will look to recruit core volunteers for weekends at the build sites.
Following the analysis of that information, students will set objectives and strategize the best way to accomplish their end goal. Working together on the build shows them the importance of working as a team.
"I learned that making a plan for something is more effective than simply just going for it," says senior Kelby McGrath.
The following assignments include setting up media and public relations plans to develop the end product, which students present to the client.
One of the most important steps of the process is that each student will rework their assignments until they are up to par. McKee says this is vital to their understanding of the real world. In business, you don't turn something in and walk away. You work on it until it's a good product.
Her students agree, saying that was a valuable learning opportunity when they were working on the build. Knowing there were real people involved in the process reminded them of the ramifications if something isn't done correctly.
"You can read a text, but you don't understand it until you put it into practice," says senior Scott Salem.
McKee's approach to teaching gives students more than a bank of information. It gives them real-world experiences to take with them after graduation.