Students in Leadership, Communication and Teams (MGNT 311) class received the unique opportunity to explore aspects of management covered in their class by observing and talking to employees in the real world. Dr. Amber Messersmith, lecturer for the College of Business Administration at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, organized a project splitting her class into groups to visit area businesses for a firsthand look at their daily operations, leadership style and workplace culture.
“This assignment takes the case study approach and makes it even more real. Reading about an organization only tells part of the story; I wanted students to both research as well as experience a local organization in person and see how the concepts we’re studying in class play out on a daily basis,” Messersmith said. “The presentations provide the chance to share with their peers the unique things local organizations are doing, as well as gain experience making a professional team presentation.”
Eight groups of four to five students each visited several Lincoln organizations, including the Arbor Day Foundation, Assurity, Firespring, Hudl, HUMANeX, Hurrdat, National Research Corporation and Sandhills Publishing. On Monday, April 11, and Wednesday, April 13, the groups presented their findings in front of their classmates and representatives from the organizations.
“Visiting the company itself is extremely educational. I know more about how paper is printed, I am knowledgeable in how the company works daily and I can see Sandhills’ culture right in front of me,” said Tanner Nguyen, whose group visited Sandhills Publishing. “These things can’t be achieved by simply visiting a website or listening to employee interviews.”
In addition, the students found other benefits to working in groups. Coordinating schedules, delegating work and establishing expectations are skills students will use in the future.
“Any time a professor mentions the words ‘group project’ to the class, it is normally followed by moans and groans because many of us have had bad experiences with group projects in the past,” said Michael Martin, leader of the group that visited Hurrdat. “This project changed my views on group projects from negative to positive, not only because my group was awesome, but also because I saw first-hand how Hurrdat works in groups every day. That means that being able to function in groups and work with other people is very important in the professional world.”
Through the projects, the students see up-close how businesses operate on a day-to-day basis. At the same time, they learn to work as a group in a similar manner as the employees they observe.
“I think they’ve enjoyed something a bit different than synthesizing what online sources say, but instead collecting information first-hand,” Messersmith said. “Overall I think it’s been a positive experience, not only to examine these concepts in a different context, but also to spend time in a work environment, touring facilities, talking with professionals and observing meetings. These students will be working in places like these in just a matter of a few semesters.”