Management fellows thinking outside the box

Monday, April 5, 2010

GREENCASTLE -- Since 2009, students in DePauw's Management Fellows Program have been charged with one final task before graduation -- to use their education and experience at DePauw to make the University an even stronger member of the Greencastle community.

Professor of economics and management Gary D. Lemon, director of the Management Fellows Program, started the capstone projects in response to one of DePauw President Brian W. Casey's strategic initiatives for the University.

"I wanted something that would build on President Casey's vision of having the Greencastle community and the DePauw community more integrated," Lemon said. "I wanted students to do a semester-long project and I thought this would be something that would not only benefit the students, but could also benefit Greencastle."

The senior seminar also gives upperclassmen an opportunity to give back to the community that has become their second home.

"All but one of our students come from outside of Greencastle," Lemon said. "They bring to the table a variety of town experiences that they can share."

One of last year's inaugural capstone projects resulted in expansion of Tiger Card student meal plans to Greencastle restaurants. Students in the class had estimated that as much as $200,000 per year could be directed into the local economy by giving students off-campus dining options. Senior Brendan R. Belz, a member of that class, says the success of the Tiger Card project -- despite serious financial implications for the University -- proves that their ideas are being taken seriously.

"We learned a lot about how the University operates and that it is truly committed to supporting the Greencastle community," Belz said. "In poor economic times, the fact that the university was willing to give up a portion of its own food revenue and put it back into local restaurants really demonstrates how serious President Casey is about reaffirming a strong DePauw-Greencastle relationship."

Last year's group also developed a community portal Web site to provide Greencastle residents and visitors with information about how to take advantage of the University's public facilities and events.

During the 2010 senior seminar's first meeting in early February, local business owners, community leaders and President Casey joined the discussion. Visitors to the class shared ideas for how DePauw can benefit Greencastle and discussed the economic realities that temper them.

Four students in this year's class are working on a particularly ambitious project that was proposed during the meeting.

"When the (Indianapolis) Colts decided to relocate their summer training camp from Anderson University to Rose-Hulman (Institute of Technology) in 1999, DePauw was also in the running," senior David "Wicks" Barkhausen said.

Barkhausen's group is performing an analysis of what it would take to bring the camp to Greencastle -- a move that would bring thousands of visitors to the city every August.

Junior Justin Q. Quall, a member of the group, thinks that moving to DePauw's facilities might make sense for the Colts.

"From the Colts' perspective, there could be significant value in DePauw's proximity to Indianapolis," Quall said. "The University's indoor tennis and track facility and the potential to invest in an artificial turf field would give the team options during inclement weather."

Eric A. Wolfe, a 2004 graduate of DePauw and community development director for the Putnam County Community Foundation, was also among the visitors to the class. He says that it's hard not to be optimistic about the management fellows' chances to make an impact.

"As a recent DePauw graduate and a Greencastle citizen, I see the barriers to better cooperation, but I don't believe they are insurmountable," Wolfe said. "The university's students and local citizens both want a vibrant downtown and both want more economic activity in town, in general. There is a huge opportunity for synergies because of these shared desires.

"We have some key leaders in place right now who really invigorate and inspire these discussions," Wolfe added. "Partnerships between those individuals and their organizations are very important in order for us to move forward and I think positive signals for improvement are coming from all directions."

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