Stephen F. Austin State University

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SFA students team up with industry professionals to learn project management

May 11, 2018 - University Marketing Communications
Stephen F. Austin State University students in the Rusche College of Business have experienced business in a professional format while working alongside industry professionals. During the semester, students worked in groups to create plans for real-world projects that ranged from creating a disc golf course to constructing a laser tag arena. Seated, from left, are faculty from SFA's Department of Management and Marketing Dr. Rajat Mishra, assistant professor, and Cathy Henderson, lecturer, and mentor Rob McCaughey, district sales manager for ArcBest in Houston.
NACOGDOCHES, Texas - Through a real-world project, Stephen F. Austin State University students in the Rusche College of Business have experienced business in a professional format.

For the second year, Dr. Rajat Mishra, assistant professor in SFA's Department of Management and Marketing, has tasked students in his project management course with creating a project as if they were implementing their plans in real life. Projects ranged from building a new disc golf course to constructing a laser tag arena in Nacogdoches.

"This class is about mentorship and community involvement," Mishra said. "My goal with this project is to help students learn and launch their careers so they can become leaders in their fields."

The class was divided into groups to research and plan throughout the semester. Each group was assigned an industry mentor. Mentors included Janet Watson, vice president for strategic sourcing at Baylor Scott and White Health in Dallas; Rob McCaughey, district sales manager for ArcBest in Houston; and AJ Dhakal, senior lead engineer at Schlumberger in Houston.

"This course brings the community and class together," Mishra said. "It is a great experience for students to have access to these professionals."

In researching their plans, groups worked with local businesses and contractors to receive advice from experienced professionals. A few students had the opportunity to work with the Nacogdoches mayor's office to better understand how to work within city policies and gain insight on how city projects unfold.

"We always enjoy partnering with SFA students. As these students know, local ordinances and state laws are a part of doing business," said Nacogdoches Mayor Shelley Brophy. "Hopefully, we allowed them to see that the permitting process and zoning ordinances are not difficult and how our offices assist with the ins and outs for any private citizen, company or developer wanting to open a new business in Nacogdoches."

This course is open to all majors and is not limited to business students. Senior economics major Chris Hinton worked as the manager for his group's disc golf course project.

"We had to get true numbers and meet with people from the field," Hinton said. "It was a lot of fun, and we learned more of what you would do in the real world as a project manager."

After working all semester and providing three status updates to Mishra and project mentors, students presented their final projects to a panel of mentors and Rusche College of Business professors. Mishra added students learn communication skills, how to budget, negotiation tactics and more in this course.