While the average NMU student only spends one very cold weekend in February cheering on dog sleds as they travel through downtown Marquette, one group of students has gone far beyond just watching the race pass them by. During the semester, the students help plan and manage events in the Marquette area, some of the biggest being the U.P. 200, Midnight Run and Jack Pine 30 dog sled races.
And the 21 students in associate professor Carol Steinhaus’ MGT 295 class aren’t just sitting in a classroom to do it; they’re implementing the concepts and management techniques they’ve already learned about.
“In the fall, we focus on event planning and the students learn about many different aspects of planning events: logistics, obtaining volunteers, some legal issues and the problems of specific events,” Steinhaus said. “In the winter, the students plan events like the Noquemanon Ski Marathon and the U.P. 200.”
The experience not only provides an understanding of management values and provides a powerful service to the community, but it also fires up students to be committed to a cause and think on their feet, Steinhaus said.
“The students become empowered. They get excited about what they’re doing and what they themselves are able to do.
“They’re also excited about actually managing and not just hearing about how to manage from a book or a lecture. Part of what I love seeing is when the students just absolutely glow because there was a problem and they figured out how to solve it.”
It’s important to remember that students in the class are not just volunteers for the U.P. 200, but rather student managers, Steinhaus said.
“The organizers of the race count on these students much more than a volunteer because they know these students are committed to getting the job done, whatever it takes,” she said.
The students in the class break into smaller groups, and each group plans a specific aspect of the event including coordinating volunteers, organizing set up and take down and crowd control, spending three hours a week meeting as a class, and countless hours outside of that.
Senior computer information systems major Brian Roach has taken the special topics course three times and this year he is co-coordinating volunteers for road crossings. Roach said working with the U.P. 200 is not only fun, but it provides an opportunity to interact with the community and learn things outside the classroom.
“We get to apply management skills to the real world,” he said. “You wouldn’t be able to learn it in a classroom; it’s something you just have to go do.”
Cori Bodeman, volunteer coordinator for the U.P. 200, has been working with students in MGT 295 since the class began three years ago. Bodeman spends the entire year preparing for the race, but began speaking to students in the class about it last October. The students got their assignments for the race around that time and really started working, she said.
“The students have done an extraordinary amount of work for us,” Bodeman said. “They don’t just stand at a [road] crossing like a lot of volunteers; they are involved with planning and implementation.”
Along with planning and management, the students in the class give feedback to race organizers after the event is over. They give valuable commentary on how things went, what went right or wrong and give race organizers new ideas for the next year, Bodeman said.
“Several things [about the race] have changed,” she said. “Because students have looked at it from a different perspective and said, ‘Why don’t you look at it this way?'”
Senior business entrepreneurship major Phillip Anderson is in charge of setting up the barricades on Washington Street, tearing them down and the crowd control in between those times. He not only has used many of the management principles he has learned in class but has also enjoyed himself in the process.
“I love this class. It’s been lots of fun,” he said. “When you are a leader you feel better than you would just volunteering.”
The experience that class members gain by being student managers for the U.P. 200 serves them well in the future, Bodeman said, adding that some students have even received jobs based on recommendations from others working on the race.
Students in the class also have matching green and yellow shirts that read “NMU College of Business” on the front, and “Steinhaus Stampede: Not just playing in the snow” on the back. These shirts have become a symbol of the groups’ identity and the saying “not just playing in the snow” has become a sort-of battle cry for the class, Steinhaus said.
“Wearing those t-shirts now is a mark of pride for the students – that they’re part of the class and what they’ve been able to do. It has helped bring the students together,” she said.
And although the class is fun and enjoyable for students, the benefits reach far beyond that, Steinhaus said.
“It is more meaningful for students to get out and do things, and I know from my own life so