Where Experience Meets Learning

Real Partnerships. Real Experience.

by Katie Bradley | June 2015

Two Students

In more than 35 business courses, students are partnering with local businesses and not-for-profits to provide creative solutions to actual challenges these partner organizations are facing.

The lengthy list of partnerships includes: Indy Parks & Recreation, Indy Fuel, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the Broad Ripple Village Association, Nathan’s Playroom, and Indy Eleven.

From developing a recycling program, to scouting locations for futsal courts, to creating marketing materials for the “My City, My Park” corporate engagement initiative, MAP’s partnership with Indy Parks & Recreation—the first of the partnerships—has certainly been fruitful.

“It has been a godsend. We might have some of the same ideas students are presenting to us. But, we typically don’t have the time to really think them through and get the ball rolling. That’s where this partnership has been a huge help. The student groups do a ton of the legwork and we are able to pick it up and run with it,” said Allen McClendon, senior manager of community partnerships for Indy Parks & Recreation.

The list of projects that have led to real programs and support continues to grow. For most of the projects MAP and Indy Parks & Recreation have partnered on, the turn time between MAP recommendations and the department’s implementations has ranged from four to six months. Beyond partnering with the city, an Indy Parks project that looked at repurposing unused tennis and/or basketball courts into futsal courts, led MAP to another partnership with Indy Eleven.

A Thriving Environment

Of course, the benefits of these partnerships are not one-sided. With each project, students gain important real-world experiences, unique insight into organizations they serve, and get the chance to shine with area employers. 

“Students are inspired and work harder,” Lesley Neff, director of educational services for MAP, said. “When they walk in to give a presentation, they’re not just presenting to a teacher and other students; they’re presenting to the actual organization, including directors, human resource managers, and board members. They step up and go that extra mile, while at the same time, learning to work collaboratively together.”


For MAP student Richard Walke, the partnership courses made him more marketable at his current job.

“It gives you practical application. Most of us are already out in the real world and it helps us to see what changes we can make and suggest in our own businesses and organizations that we’re currently involved in,” Walke said.

Beyond the hands-on learning experience, these partnerships add value and purpose to their projects.

“These group projects—being that they’re real—add an extra level of excitement and energy to the work you’re doing,” said Natasha Blakemore-Evans ’15, who graduated from the MAP business administration program this May. “The most interesting part of the experience for me is that we are working with businesses and not-for-profit groups that really need this help.”

BUS 495 Students

Amy Bennett, executive director of MAP, also sees these innovative courses as a way to connect students to their passions and make the students and the program a tool for change.

“In every class, there has been someone who has really connected with the partner, who now volunteers for that agency, who is going above and beyond to help. We’ve even had a student—who also worked for Indianapolis Power & Light Company (IPL)—apply for a grant at IPL for the not-for-profit that was a part of her class project. And she got it,” Bennett said.

“Obviously, not every student in every class is going to feel that connection. But, if one person out of each class does, that’s pretty darn awesome.”

A Valuable Education

The new innovative courses come in response to an increasingly online-centered education for adult learners.

“So many schools are doing strictly online courses, but our niche—where we thrive— is really with face-to-face learning. These partnerships allowed us to create a hybrid where students don’t have to come as often, but still get face-to-face learning. It’s the best of both worlds,” said Bennett.

Anywhere it can successfully be done, MAP is working to transform traditional courses into these hybrid, partnership courses. Of course, less class time does not mean easier classes. “It really is more difficult. Is it better? Yes. Do we end up with better results? Yes. But, it’s hard work. It’s easier to be in a regular lecture class and be passive and just read and take a test, read and take a test. This is different,” said Bennett.

And that extra work includes faculty and staff who, instead of presenting case studies in textbooks, are reaching out and making connections with these partners, convincing them to invest faith and time in MAP students.

BUS 495 students B

“It may be extra work, but it’s very worth it,” said Beverly Fernandez, business instructor. “And our students see the importance of working on these projects.”

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