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Innovative programs prepare students for the workforce of today - and tomorrow

When Tom Sheaffer received his A.A.S. degree from Garrett College's Adventuresports Institute, he wasn't planning on returning to school. But after working as a civilian for the Army in Germany for eight years in the morale, welfare and recreation program, he realized that a college degree would help him further his career. Shortly after returning home, Sheaffer heard about the new collaborative Bachelor of Science in adventure sports management offered by Frostburg State University and Garrett College. Sheaffer is in the inaugural class and will graduate in 2017, well on his way to his professional ambition of being a leader in the adventure sports industry.

The new "two plus two" program gives students the opportunity to gain expertise in recreation activities while developing the management skills and professional connections necessary to become successful leaders in the tourism industry. The program utilizes the unique natural resources found in Western Maryland.

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Building on curricula already developed in FSU's Adventure Sports concentration of the Recreation and Parks Management major and in Garrett's two-year program at the Adventuresports Institute, the new program adds leadership experiences and professional preparation while maintaining an emphasis on specific adventure sports skills. The model addresses students' need for the advanced knowledge offered by a bachelor's degree, and the industry's need for leaders and innovators in the outdoor recreation and tourism fields, a growing component of the economy in Western Maryland and beyond.

The degree program has been designed to be as experiential as possible, according to Robert B. Kauffman, Ph.D., professor in FSU's Department of Kinesiology and Recreation. "We want the students to learn by doing," says Kauffman. Students will participate in Garrett College's adventure skills classes before honing their leadership and business skills with FSU's adventure sports management classes, all offered on Garrett's campus. The students will also take field trips to look at how various adventure sports programs are administered.

Students will receive a B.S. in adventure sports management from FSU on graduation and can transfer their credits back to Garrett College to receive the A.A.S. in adventure sports. "A bachelor's degree in adventure sports will open doors to higher-paying, advanced career positions," says Kauffman.

Learning the fundamentals

Even students who aren't business majors are likely to work in a business environment. Helping these non-business students become more attractive to prospective employers is the objective of the new Loyola Business Institute, being offered for the first time this summer at Loyola University Maryland from May 22-June 24.

The five-week Institute designed for undergraduates or recent graduates in the areas of liberal arts, sciences and social sciences will provide the fundamental business knowledge and skills necessary for any career. Upon completion of the program, students earn six credits. Students from colleges and universities other than Loyola are welcome to apply as well, according to Kathy Getz, dean of Loyola's Sellinger School of Business.

The Institute will offer integrated coursework on foundations of business and measuring business performance, a strong emphasis on principled leadership and the opportunity to practice decision-making in settings that simulate actual business situations. "Students will be prepared for engaging careers in for-profit as well as non-profit organizations," says Getz, adding that the courses are enhanced by co-curricular activities that allow students to interact with business professionals and observe the application of skills and knowledge presented in the classroom.

In line with Loyola's mission as a Jesuit university, a key feature of both the curriculum and the co-curricular experiences will be principled leadership. "Doing the right thing is more important than ever for business leaders because businesses can serve as a catalyst for addressing many of society's problems such as climate change, wealth inequality and social justice issues," says Getz.

Professional development will also be an integral part of the program and will include seminars to develop students' skills in marketing themselves for internships and/or full-time employment as well as enhancing teamwork skills, communication skills, and the development and delivery of presentations.

"We not only want the students to leave the Institute better prepared to enter the workforce with an understanding of how organizations can contribute to society, but we want to engage them and offer an experience they wouldn't otherwise get in their chosen field of study," says Getz.

Emphasizing teamwork

The Quality Enhancement Systems and Teams (QUEST) Honors Program is a multidisciplinary, hands-on program for University of Maryland, College Park undergraduates from the Robert H. Smith School of Business, A. James Clark School of Engineering and College of Computer, Mathematical and Natural Sciences in which students participate in a challenging course of study that focuses on quality management, process improvement and system design through team-based projects. Students apply in their freshman year and begin classes during their sophomore year.

Students take three required courses and two electives to earn their QUEST citation. In each course, students work on teams with peers from different majors. "This gives them a taste of the 'real world' by learning to work with people with diverse backgrounds, skills, and interests," says program director Kylie King. Students also gain a hands-on learning experience, designing, building, and innovating in each of the three required courses.

In the capstone course, Consulting and Innovation Practicum, student teams work on a 13-week, hands-on consulting project with a corporate client, helping the client solve an identified organizational challenge. "This isn't just an exercise," says King." The clients really care about the results."

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According to many of the companies sponsoring QUEST projects, the work accomplished by students is on par with that which could be expected from a team of professional consultants.

"QUEST students are clearly engaged and better prepared than other student groups I have worked with, says Christopher Sanford of GE Middle River Aircraft, a QUEST capstone project sponsor. "I think QUEST does a good job preparing the students for the tasks they are going to face. They present themselves as professionals instead of students, which lends to the credibility of the program."

QUEST students are also in high demand by employers after they graduate. According to Joel Liebman, manager at PwC and himself a QUEST alumnus, QUEST students are ready to be facing clients from their first day on the job. "...We specifically looked for QUEST alumni to bring onto our project knowing the type of training they have had and the experience and capabilities they bring to a team." •

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