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Student project assists Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts|
By Celena E. Kusch
| This spring, five honors students learned the real-life lesson that to be a good leader you have to serve. The studentsSachin Aggarwal, finance; Todd Bacastow, information sciences and technology (IST); Blake Buzzini, computer engineering; Ali Chaudhry, finance; and Ben Eisenberg, ISTwere part of a new Schreyer Honors College course called Leadership Forum, and their leadership project will have an impact on future programming and marketing for State Colleges Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts (CPFA).|
The purpose of the course was to provide a capstone, leadership learning experience to students in a variety of majors. Students learned to evaluate the actions and quality of leaders and leadership in corporate, political and not-for-profit sectors; then completed team projects in these areas to put their own leadership strategies to the test.
Upon learning of the course projects, Dr. Patricia A. Book, president of the board of directors of the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts and associate vice president for outreach and executive director of the Division of Continuing Education at Penn State, asked course coordinators if the students might like to work with the Arts Festival at a key juncture in that organizations history. One team of students met with Book and the CPFA Executive Committee and were given a charge to assess opportunities that would expand the audience and better serve University students.
Students on the Arts Festival corporate team met on Saturday mornings with Phil Walz, executive director of the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, and Dean Bunnell of the CPFA board to plan a strategy for identifying three to five events that the CPFA could add to the Arts Festival to increase student engagement.
According to Aggarwal, a finance major and Schreyer Honors College Scholar, the students took on a role as marketing consultants. They developed, implemented and analyzed a marketing survey to measure student attitudes and interest in existing and potential Arts Festival events. The goal was to find ideas that would be unique, fun, low cost, revenue generating and mutually beneficial to town and gown.
This is an event that attracts 100,000 people a year, Aggarwal added. We wanted to find new ways to help people have a good time and still manage the risks.
To my knowledge, we have never sought to survey audiences who participate in the Arts Festival after 8 or 9 oclock at night, Walz explained. Those audiences tend to be younger, many of them college students. All of our data spun from what we learned from groups who participate between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m., but theres clearly another market for festival events that extend later at night.
The student survey found that many Penn State students do become involved in the Arts Festival and that much of their interest and involvement is art-related.
We wanted to know what students think of Arts Fest and if they know what its about, and many of them do, the students said. One major finding was that students would like to see more music, especially in the evening, and a film festival.
Walz has stated that these are some of the components the CPFA will consider for 2003.
The Arts Festival has had a long history of doing a film festival, but that has changed in recent years. Films projected onto a screen or sheet late at night do not violate sound ordinances, and that may be something we are able to pursue, he said.
Another activity is the street painting staged on Heister Street, near some of the bars. Weve found there is a significant audience for street painting from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m. In fact, the street painting tradition in Italy is to run the events for a
24-hour period, with artists painting literally through the night. This year, we decided to light the event and to let the artists work all night if they would like, Walz said.
According to Dr. Cheryl Achterberg, dean of The Schreyer Honors College and professor of nutrition, getting students involved in community events in this way has great benefits.
The students gained the valuable experience of having to take the views of a number of stakeholders throughout the campus and community into consideration in a real-world problem-solving situation, she said. They had to learn to mediate, earn trust, negotiate and develop resolutions that met the needs of all stakeholders while moving the project along. No matter what the quality of classroom instruction may be, they could not have experienced this kind of learning by just working within traditional classroom walls.
Aggarwal agreed. I learned a lot about our community, both Penn State and State College, he said. It was a great opportunity to meet community leaders, and I was able to develop many leadership skillsfrom basic presentation skills to gaining the pulse of the community. Personally, this is something I like to do. Its not just about academics, as much as it is personally fulfilling.
The project also benefits the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts.
To my knowledge, this is the first time theres been a quality vehicle to assess student perception of the Arts Festival. As a consequence, weve tried to share the information we gleaned with a number of different groups, including the Campus Community Partnership, the Downtown Improvement District and the Borough of State College. The students presented all the data themselves, and they approached it in a professional manner. It was very worthwhile, Walz noted.
I think we all know that students are capable of doing excellent work, but this group was very committed, took it very seriously, and they delivered, he added. I was particularly impressed that they were able to get some sense of randomness in such a small survey sample. In order to have data you can use, the most important thing is that the questions arent ambiguous and that its random. Some of the keystone percentages matched our numbers, and thats a firm validation of the quality of their work.
Book also commented on the students formal presentation to the full board of directors.
The presentation was first rate, the data and analysis informative and the team impressed the entire board with their professionalism and insight, Book said. This was an example of student service research and service learning at its best. We were grateful to be able to benefit from such quality work from Penn State students.
Along with Achterberg, members of the Leadership Forum teaching team included Augustus Gus Colangelo, assistant professor of management; Dr. Donnie Horner, director of Engineering Leadership; Dr. Mike Mazarr; Soma Kedia, teaching assistant; Dr. Syedur Rahman, director of the Hubert Humphrey Fellows Program; and Dr. Steven Sawyer, associate professor of information sciences and technology and management science and information systems.
© 2002 Outreach Communications, Outreach & Cooperative Extension, The Pennsylvania State University
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