Search This Blog

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Confessions of an academic

We had a meeting with the food group last week. It was encouraging as there were several people/organizations that are interested in working with student groups this coming quarter. We will probably do two or three projects with my Facilities design class (Industrial Engineering) and with students from Neal MacDougal’s Ag business classes.
I am observing myself and my trepidation about these projects. I will record these feelings here in hopes they are unfounded. Somehow I want to qualify myself (this is funny in itself, because I don’t really value people doing this). I have been working with local (and distant) companies for 15 years with small groups of students working with an organization and developing ideas for efficiency improvements. These projects are on the whole valuable to the organizations and the students alike. Over the years I have developed some rules of thumb for these project. First, the organization must be fully informed as to the commitment they are making to the students. Second, there must be a culminating presentation to the client group at the end of the project. And third, students must have access to the organization, this might include interviews, observations, production or sales quantities. In the food group it is quite difficult to identify a client/decision maker. I have noticed this before when working with non-profits. The decision-making is much more distributed/collaborative. I need to do a bit more work to identify these three contact points. This is not too hard, just a bit more difficult than when dealing with money-making organizations.
The thing that is a bit more curious to me is my own internal reluctance to coordinate with Neal.