Class Mission: Students analyze, recommend updates to shelter initiatives

By: Austin Arceo, ISU Communications and Marketing Staff
May 10, 2012

Hoping to increase donations to help homeless people with a place to sleep and food to eat, a nonprofit organization teamed up with a group of Indiana State students to update their procedures.

Two teams of ISU students in an operations management course partnered with the Light House Mission Ministries in Terre Haute to analyze the nonprofit's operations and recommend changes that could benefit the homeless shelter. One group of students worked with fundraising initiatives for the mission while another team analyzed the supply chain processes at the mission's thrift stores in Terre Haute.

"Finances are always the hardest part for a nonprofit, and right now we find ourselves with more and more people needing help, but the people who help us by giving us donations ... don't have as much money to give away," said Bonnie Wallace, director of development for the Light House Mission. "We're finding more requests, less money coming in, and we're trying to balance the two. So when we find a way to get more finances in here to help those that are needy, it's a great thing for us."

A group worked with Wallace to analyze the organization's fundraising needs, including mail solicitations and the organization's online presence. The team suggested updating the credit card system to better accept online donations, along with using items such as QR codes in mailing efforts.

"The collaboration is nice, because we're helping out the Light House Mission," said Jordan Bruce Bowen, a senior marketing major from Robinson, Ill. "Even when we're not here, there are still donations because of the system that we're helping them with."

The projects are part of a class taught by Ken Jones, senior lecturer of operations management. He talked with Paul Shaw, chief operations officer of Light House Mission, about having students work on shelter initiatives. They discussed several ideas before narrowing it down to the fundraising and supply chain efforts.

In early May, the students presented their final recommendations to Shaw. They mentioned several updates, including selling some items on eBay if they haven't sold in the Light House Mission stores, along with raising prices on some items from 75 cents to $1.

They also suggested rearranging the store located in the 12 Points neighborhood of Terre Haute so that similar items, such as videos, DVDs and records, are grouped together.

"The students were really good to work with," Shaw said after the students' final presentation. "We received a lot of valuable information out of their work, and it's something we can use not only in our fundraising, but the merchandising in our stores. It was really enjoyable."

Students worked with Light House Mission as a way to integrate what they were learning into a project affecting an organization. For junior Jordan Willocks, an insurance and risk management major from Terre Haute, the class was the first time he has learned about supply chain management. In some instances he immediately used some lessons to analyze the mission's procedures at their store locations, which accept donations and sell items that are received at low cost to help fund the other mission initiatives."I have to give it to Professor Jones, because I've never had to do a project like this in any of my years of schooling...," Willocks said. "It's been interesting, unique, challenging and rewarding at the same time."

The students successfully combined experiential learning with service learning simultaneously, instructor Jones said.

"That's a huge accomplishment for any class, let alone an operations management class!" he added. "They had a sense of purpose to their work that really transcended the project itself, and made a real impact with a key service organization in the Wabash Valley."

The projects required students to utilize more than what they are simply learning in the class, said Tony McCarter, a senior business administration major from Terre Haute. He has used lessons from multiple courses to help with the project.

McCarter, who worked in business management for 14 years, knows firsthand of the benefits that can be learned from working on projects with other businesses.

"In a classroom setting, you can do a project there but you really don't put the pieces together," McCarter said. "It's one of those things that you think as a student, well how is this ever going to apply to what I'm going to be doing when I get out into the workforce, and this gives students a good opportunity to see what they're really learning is relevant."

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Other/Media-Services/Lighthouse-Mission-Store-2012/i-xxXsLtC/0/L/041612lighthuosemission-0578-L.jpg (ISU/Tony Campbell)Three Indiana State University students tour the Light House Mission store in the 12 Points section of Terre Haute. The students were part of a group analyzing the mission's operations and recommending changes to improve processes.

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Other/Media-Services/Red-Cross/i-ZfLRDPg/0/L/Lighthouse-Mission-Tour-L.jpg (Submitted photo)Indiana State University students speak with Paul Shaw, chief operating officer of the Light House Mission Ministries. Two teams of students from an operations management course analyzed the nonprofit's operations and provided recommendations to improve the efforts.

Contact: Ken Jones, senior lecturer, operations management, Scott College of Business, Indiana State University, 317-413-6753 or kenneth.jones@indstate.edu

Writer: Austin Arceo, assistant director of media relations, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or austin.arceo-negrich@indstate.edu

Story Highlights

Two teams of ISU students in an operations management course partnered with the Light House Mission Ministries in Terre Haute to analyze the nonprofit's operations and recommend changes that could benefit the homeless shelter.

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