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Brad Lichtfuss ’16 (left) with Erika Rettler ’16 (center) and Nicole Kozlovsky ’16.

Student Research Impacts Region

Students are leading studies that are making a significant impact in northeast Wisconsin, through work undertaken by the new Center for Business & Economics Analysis (CBEA) at St. Norbert. 

The new center gives students an opportunity to use what they’ve learned in the classroom to help develop solutions for community problems and issues, at the same time strengthening the ties between the college and the regional business community.  

“It’s been wonderful to be a part of. I’m using what I’ve learned to work on a real-world issue and also gaining new skills along the way,” says Brad Lichtfuss ’16. “At the end of the day, I feel like I’m giving back.” Lichtfuss studied areas facing a shortage of teachers, such as inner city and rural schools, looking at possible ways they could attract and retain educators. Like all the projects at the CBEA, his results were shared with community leaders.

Students are selected by professors to participate. They can earn an independent-study credit for their efforts but, to Erika Rettler ’16, the real attraction was gaining real-world experience before leaving college.

“The CBEA gives you life skills that you don’t get in the classroom. It’s student-led, and you see your work coming to life,” she says. “What you are doing is having an impact on the community – it’s not just for a grade. You get to meet a lot of new people and really expand your horizons.”

That’s something Nicole Kozlovsky ’16 has experienced. Last spring, she worked with a professor on an economic impact study for the Green Bay Botanical Gardens. After seeing the presentation, a representative from the local cerebral palsy center asked if the college could do something similar for them. This time, the project was under the auspices of the CBEA, and it was Kozlovsky herself – not a professor – who took the lead.

“The biggest takeaway was that I learned a lot about myself. I learned I needed stronger presenting skills,” says Kozlovsky, who is originally from Green Bay. “I also learned more about leading others and working together as a team.”

While Kozlovsky, Rettler and Lichtfuss are all pursing majors within the Schneider School, co-director Jamie O’Brien (Business Administration) said the CBEA is open to students of all majors interested in addressing real-life issues.

“We’re all about getting skill sets together to solve problems,” he says.

The Center for Business & Economic Analysis has three main focuses: student-led research projects, community presentations and white papers on various topics.The initiative came into being as co-directors O’Brien and Marc Schaffer (Economics) were discussing project work (in O’Brien’s classes) and community presentations (in Schaffer’s). Their vision for a center, to be housed within the Schneider School of Business & Economics, grew with the support of college administration and staff. 

“The whole point of a university is to solve problems,” O’Brien says. “We did start with a strategic plan but we’re already in year five of that, and we’re only three semesters into this! If you put good students onto things, then things happen. We don’t need to hold hands with these students because they’re that good.”

March 14, 2016