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St. Norbert Class Partners with Local Businesses to Improve Corporate Communication

Better internal communication is a hot topic for businesses today. “Companies are always saying they need to communicate better, but they don’t know how to do it,” says St. Norbert’s Kim Smith, assistant professor of communication and media studies. So Smith came up with an idea: pairing students with local businesses to study a particular communication-based issue and offer suggestions for improvement. 

Green Bay firms Ameriprise and Dental City quickly signed on. The inaugural program, which started this fall, is part of the college’s Organizational Communication course. The course is taken by all communication and media studies majors, typically during their senior year, and examines how people communicate in an organizational setting such as the workplace. 

Ameriprise and Dental City were each paired with one class of about 20 students, Smith says. During the class’ first week, representatives from the two companies came to campus and met with the students to discuss their businesses and the issues they wished to study. Students working with Ameriprise are examining how the company can create a more dynamic workplace that will keep employees engaged. Dental City, which is experiencing a lot of growth, is interested in learning how it can keep employees connected and on the same page as it expands.

After the introductory week, it was time to dig in. Students were separated into groups to focus on specific angles of the issue and provide a well-rounded analysis. 

“They’ll do some online research, use resources such as pamphlets and brochures that are provided by the organizations, and interview specific employees for more insight on the topic,” Smith says. During the remainder of the course, she’ll guide them in analyzing and assessing the information they have unearthed, along with discerning how the company might best make use of it. At the end of the semester, company representatives will come to campus and listen to the students’ reports. 

Smith says the project will offer numerous benefits for all involved. Ameriprise and Dental City will gain fresh insights into their companies’ current communication practices, along with ideas for improvement, all at no cost. The project will also afford them the opportunity to connect with St. Norbert students – and potential future employees – in a fashion akin to an internship. The SNC students will earn valuable insights into real-world business issues while having the chance to make beneficial corporate connections. 

The college will evaluate the program at semester’s end, with the hope of repeating it in the fall of 2019. 

An SNC faculty/student partnership recently helped the Village of Allouez with an economic-impact study that revealed a $138.5 million possibilty for the region. Would your business benefit from a communication-related or other type of analysis? For more information, contact Amy Kundinger, SNC director of corporate and foundation relations, at 920-403-4223 or amy.kundinger@snc.edu.

Sept. 25, 2018