Students tackle rural sustainability head-on
Release Date : March 14, 2012
On March 9th, eleven senior students from Edwards School of Business travelled to the small town of Landis, SK – population 200 – as part of a class project. But they got more than they bargained for…
Some of the students were working on course-based applied projects for Professor Chelsea Willness’s COMM 343 class, which incorporates an experiential learning component called Community Service-Learning. Student teams are paired with a community organization for the duration of the semester, enabling the students to apply what they learn in the classroom while providing a service to their organization – like developing a customized recruitment strategy for attracting volunteers, or perhaps a focus on board member engagement and retention. Others on the trip were part of Professor Keith Willoughby’s COMM 498 course, which also has students gaining hands-on experience by working with organizations to apply their learning in real time.
The purpose of the excursion to Landis was primarily to meet with some of the organizations our students are working with, but it turned into much more. The Grade 11-12 class in Landis had been asked to organize the visit as part of their ‘Leadership 30’ course, and from that small connection, rural hospitality took over and spread – classroom visits, a special lunch prepared for the Edwards students at the school library, and personalized tours of the town and its organizations. The Grade 6-8’s and Grade 9-10’s asked if our students would speak to their classes to help them understand a tricky case study they were working on. They wanted to know, “How would you create a healthy and productive work environment?” and “What do you think empowers people to take on a leadership role, and what has inspired you to become a better leader?”
“Our students were shining ambassadors for Edwards,” remarks Chelsea Willness, who accompanied the group on their road trip, “they engaged with the younger students and demonstrated real leadership capabilities, and moments later transitioned into conducting professional business meetings with their organizations. I love to challenge my students to ‘go be excellent’ and they never disappoint.”
HR major Angelise Kildaw summed up her thoughts about the visit to Landis, stating “Not only do I feel that being involved in such projects provides invaluable experience to the students but I also feel proud to be a part of a project that has the potential to give back to the community.”
It may be small, but the community of Landis is full of remarkable people achieving amazing things. Parents, business owners, farmers, and teachers have banded together in numerous committees and citizen groups to grow the town’s economic viability and keep the doors of their school open, despite a gradually dwindling population. It’s a story so many of us in Saskatchewan have heard before (put your hand up if you come from a town that lost its hospital, or school, or both)…. but the Landis citizens’ determination, creativity, and heart give you a strong sense that this story will have a happy ending…