Each issue, Redbird Impact magazine is highlighting an Illinois State faculty or staff member who exemplifies Illinois State’s core value of civic engagement. Our inaugural campus hero is Dr. Rosie Hauck, executive director of the Office of Advanced Technology Support for Faculty and an associate professor in the Department of Accounting.
Hauck has spent the last 16 years incorporating community engagement and service learning into her business information systems classes by partnering with nonprofits. The students develop technology and processes to solve problems these organizations are facing. Along the way, students obtain real-world experience using the innovative project management tools Agile and Scrum while making a #RedbirdImpact in Bloomington-Normal.
Hauck has become a leader in implementing service learning on campus, and last year, she was named a Civic Engagement Ambassador by the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning. Hauck has shared what she has learned about integrating community engagement and the Agile approach into her classes at academic conferences across the country.
In the following Q&A from last March, Hauck talks about how her classes work with nonprofits.
How do you incorporate civic engagement into your classes?
The classes I teach revolve around information systems development. So we look at improving business processes with technical solutions. We’ve been partnering with nonprofits, and given the constraints, in terms of resources, students get to be creative by delivering needed functionality in a very resource-wise and cost-efficient way.
One of the examples I’ve seen is the app your class developed for Miller Park Zoo. Can you tell me about that project?
Every semester we have a client partner, and we tend to have, given the size of the class, maybe three to five teams working with the same client on different projects. One semester we partnered with Miller Park Zoo. We had five concurrent system development projects going on during the semester. I asked the zoo to come up with a “wish list” project, and they said the app. So I put a team on that project to address what are some of the needs, what data is available, who’s going to use it, and then figure out how we’re going to actually implement it.
You’ve also partnered with the West Bloomington Revitalization Project (WBRP), right?
WBRP is our current client. One of the different things about this particular course, as opposed to some of my colleagues around campus, is if we do a good job with our client, we should not have to come back. We develop a system, we change the processes, then we’re out.
And (in fall 2019), I partnered with West Bloomington, and they’re very much a grassroots organization. They build stuff from scratch, given different needs. As a neighborhood association, they have a lot of different projects going on, all to the benefit of the West Bloomington area. So in the fall, we completed three information systems projects. This is usually where I have to say, “Well, you know it’s been great, bye bye,” but luckily they have so many projects going on that I have another three teams this semester (spring 2020), working on three more projects. It’s been a real treat to actually get to go back to the same organization for the first time: They have some real system needs and our students are willing to step up to that challenge.
What feedback have you received from these nonprofits that you’ve worked with?
I think we’re all impressed and surprised at what the students are able to do in a short period of time, and sometimes the students themselves are surprised. For example, look at the Miller Park application. We don’t teach a specific class in app building. We do have technical classes where students learn about systems, such as development and programming. But as far as choosing the actual technology, it has to fit with the organization, so we might teach a particular programming language or use a particular platform in the classroom, but if it doesn’t fit with what the organization can use and maintain over time, students should find a platform that will work for the client-partner. The ability to use foundational knowledge and skills for other contexts is especially important in the fast-moving field of business information systems.
Most of these business students will likely work in the business world. Do you think it’s important to expose these students to this type of nonprofit work?
My sneaky goal with this class is to help students realize they have these skills that can help different types of organizations that have these real information systems’ needs. The students not only develop confidence in their skills, they are also doing great things for the community.