Stephen F. Austin State University

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SFA business students learn project management alongside industry professionals

May 10, 2017 - University Marketing Communications
Throughout the semester, Stephen F. Austin State University students enrolled in a project management course in the Rusche College of Business engaged in a collaborative project with industry professionals who served as mentors and provided guest lectures.
NACOGDOCHES, Texas - Throughout the semester, Stephen F. Austin State University students enrolled in a project management course in the Rusche College of Business engaged in a collaborative project with industry professionals.

Dr. Rajat Mishra, assistant professor in SFA's Department of Management, Marketing and International Business, tasked students with creating a project as if they were implementing their plans in real life. Projects ranged from building a food truck business and assisted-living home to revamping Ritchie Street Park in Nacogdoches.

Mishra divided the class into groups, which were then paired with an industry professional to serve as a mentor. The project mentors included AJ Dhakal, senior lead mechanical engineer at Schlumberger in Houston; Rob McCaughey, district sales manager for Southeast Texas at ArcBest; Eloy Fernandez, SFA alumnus and food cart business owner in Austin; and Dr. Randy Napier, senior industry consultant and professor at the University of Texas at Arlington.

Not only did the mentors provide SFA students with guidance throughout their project development, but they also conducted guest lectures during the semester.

"These professionals bring their experience and expertise into the classroom, which helps bridge the gap between academia and the real world," Mishra said. "Students learn professionalism and the practical aspects of business by working alongside these professionals. Through discussion and trial and error, students learn how to adapt in business situations."

At the end of the semester, students presented their work to their mentors, classmates, and additional College of Business faculty and staff members.

Project Management 470 is open to all majors. Mishra explained the course acts as a capstone-like course that allows students to practice a variety of skills they learned throughout their undergraduate career. Project mentors have interviewed several students and have offered them summer internships and full-time job opportunities.

Dr. Tim Bisping, dean of the Rusche College of Business, said Mishra's approach to teaching project management "provides extremely valuable experiences for our business students." He added the course is an "excellent example of the experiential learning opportunities the college values, and it fits perfectly with our student-centered mission."