College of Business Students Build Website for Nonprofit

Sept. 9, 2021

 

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MISSOULA - Collaborating with Raise Montana, University of Montana College of Business students received real-world experience by applying lessons learned in the classroom to design and build a new website for a local nonprofit group, Raise Montana.

Eight teams from the Business Systems Analysis and Design course in UM’s College of Business participated in a competition whereby teams vied to have their website design selected by Raise Montana, whose mission is to “support member organizations, advance the early childhood profession, and improve the quality, affordability, and accessibility of child care.”

The fifth project of its kind, it highlights the strong, mutually beneficial relationships that exist between the college and the community. Held every semester, student teams work closely with a nonprofit to uncover the requirements of the new system. Teams research features and functionality, determining a design that will allow the organization to run a more efficient and effective website. At the end of the semester, teams present their prototypes and receive live feedback from a panel of judges.

“The website partnership came at the perfect time as Raise Montana, formerly the Montana Child Care Resource and Referral Network, is in a period of transition,” said Suzy Bertsche, Shared Services Coordinator for Raise Montana. “The website proved essential in streamlining our rebranding process. In addition, the website has proven vital as we launch two new programs, Childcare Connect Montana and the Montana Shared Services Alliance, which support child care businesses with staffing, community partnerships and sustainable practices. We are extremely grateful for this collaboration and could not be more thrilled with the new website’s ability to support Raise Montana’s work in elevating child care.”

“From day one, we were impressed with the students’ dedication, professionalism and creativity in re-envisioning Raise Montana’s website. The students were valuable think partners as we sought to create a website that explains our work and supports individuals in finding needed child care information and resources. One of the most successful aspects of the website is the child care job board, which is key in addressing Montana’s child care capacity and workforce crises,” said Suzy Bertsche.

Dr. Reda Haddouch, who taught the course and managed the project, added, “Students actively engaged with Raise Montana stakeholders throughout the semester. By guiding them through a proven process, students successfully captured the functional requirements of the new system. Teams then designed a new website, built it, and provided documentation so that Raise Montana can maintaining the system on their own. Projects such as these provide the nonprofit community access to our outstanding students, who can offer outstanding insights and expertise.”

The design competition is now serving its sixth nonprofit. The leadership team, Eric Legvold, Director of Impact, United Way of Missoula, and Dr. Clayton Looney, UM Professor of Management Information Systems and Poe Family Distinguished Faculty Fellow, hopes this type of experience continues.

Professor Looney remarked, “Learning theories and concepts in the classroom is not enough. When students apply these principles to solve problems with real-world consequences, they are better equipped to excel in their upcoming careers.”

During the team presentations, Raise Montana stakeholders judged each team’s website and documentation, providing every team with constructive feedback. The winning team, CBCA Consulting, was represented by four UM business students - Ashley Harris (Project Manager and Communications Director), Claire Bradley (Systems Developer), Brandon Kirkbride (Co-Systems Developer and Systems Designer), and Christine Riesgo (Systems Analyst & Trainer).

After the winning prototype was selected, the student team anonymously designated Brandon Kirkbride to continue as an intern to finalize and transition the winning system to production.

“Thanks to Brandon’s commitment and expert skills, Raise Montana now has a website that serves as a source of information and connection for all Montana child care stakeholders. We are excited to watch the website evolve as community support for child care grows,” said Suzy Bertsche.

More information on Raise Montana can be found on the program’s website (https://www.raisemt.org/).

 

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The University of Montana is the flagship university of the state. The College of Business at UM is nationally renowned and has been named the top business school in the Big Sky Conference by U.S. News and World Report for five consecutive years.