Indiana State University Newsroom



Business students assist Buddy Walk® planning

May 9, 2017

Down Syndrome Indiana found a friend in Indiana State University after a group of Sycamores stepped up to help the organization pull off a successful inaugural Wabash Valley Buddy Walk® to raise awareness and support for those afflicted with the disorder.

Students in Jeff Harper's 400-level project management course in the Scott College of Business volunteered their expertise during spring semester to help Down Syndrome Indiana (DSI) and Wabash Valley S.T.A.R.S., a local Down syndrome support and play group, bring the walk to Terre Haute on May 6.

"Each year, I have a requirement in my project management class that students find a project big enough to be a challenge, but not so big we can't accomplish it, and I really encourage them to find a not-for-profit organization to work with," Harper said. "In the past, my class has done projects with Riverscape, where we discussed the feasibility of having a river boat, and we started a lunch delivery service to campus. This semester, we had four different proposals, and one was to work with the founders of the Buddy Walk® in the Wabash Valley."

It's a cause close to Katelynn Herrick's heart, and she was grateful when one of her classmates proposed the class put its efforts toward the Terre Haute Buddy Walk®.

"My cousin has Down syndrome and I've been to several Buddy Walks® in Indianapolis, so I was already kind of helping out to plan things for the walk in Terre Haute," said Herrick, a junior management information systems major from Brazil. "It was getting kind of stressful, but when the class decided to take it up, it really offered a lot of help to get things started the first year."

The students brought sponsors and volunteers on board, developed community service spots for radio and TV and organized local police, fire and ambulance services to be on-hand for the event - all with the goals of raising $7,000, finding at least 30 volunteers and attracting at least 300 participants to walk the perimeter of the Indiana trail by Memorial Stadium.

On the day of the event, their efforts garnered support from 383 walkers and about 90 volunteers, while raising more than $17,000 - more than $11,000 of which was brought in through sponsorships a month before Terre Haute's Buddy Walk®, one of three such events in the state this year.

Buddy Walks® are Down Syndrome Indiana's largest fundraising and awareness event, with money raised going to support services, like New Parent packets, educational resources, informational programs, parent support networks and social events for individuals with Down syndrome.

"I'm thrilled for their help because DSI has always been a volunteer-based organization. To have the students approach us and take this on as a project really takes us back to the roots of our organization," said Lisa Wells, executive director of Down Syndrome Indiana. "I was able to visit their class and see the project management program they used for the project and they've done an incredible job. I know how big of an undertaking planning a Buddy Walk® is, and the students were great about showing us how to break down the work."

With Buddy Walks® in Indianapolis, Lafayette and now Terre Haute, Down Syndrome Indiana plans year-round for the events, a massive undertaking for an organization with only two full-time and a few part-time staff members.

"This is the 20th year for a Buddy Walk® in Indianapolis, but we have families further outside of the Indianapolis metro area that can't always come to it, so we want to bring DSI to our families wherever they are in the state," Wells said. "But we're a small organization and that can be hard to do, so we're really grateful for the students' help with this. No doubt the event wouldn't have been as successful without their help."

Members of the Wabash Valley S.T.A.R.S., which proposed the first Buddy Walk® in Terre Haute, visited the class to discuss their needs in getting the event off the ground and help the students identify their task as project managers for the event.

The class identified six areas - logistics, risk management, volunteers, marketing, sponsorship and operations - that became the scope of the project. The class selected who would serve in each role, including Nick Amor as project manager and Herrick to serve as stakeholder manager and act as a liaison between the class and the Wabash Valley S.T.A.R.S.

"It's a great thing to be able to help the community and put the kind of hours that we put into a project as a donation to the community," Harper said. "At the same time, it's important to me that this be a meaningful learning experience for our students. If you look at those six areas (identified as the scope of the project), those are very commonly the key areas in a project of any kind. This experience is very good in keeping with what I would expect them to see in corporate America."

Leadership roles are nothing new to Herrick, but the project came with new lessons.

"This has taught me how to delegate work to others and coordinate a lot of different tasks between my classmates and the ladies from the organization we worked with to make sure everyone had what they needed," she said. "I've really taken a liking to project management and even started considering it as a possible career and pursuing different certifications."

The class developed work breakdown structures and Gantt charts to plan the project appropriately. They also learned to use ManageIt, a project management platform that serves as a large repository of all of the project management documents, assignments and all internal and external correspondents. All of the information collected during the project will be bound and given to the Wabash Valley S.T.A.R.S. to help with planning for next year's Buddy Walk®.

"So much of what is done in business school is done in a project environment, and in the Scott College we are particularly proud of the fact that our students are engaged in many projects and have a lot of project experience before they graduate," Harper said. "The students who take project management, in particular, are well-suited to go into the workforce with some real project management skills."

Being project manager required Amor, a senior management major from Lakeville, Ind., to oversee all of the project's subtasks and keep Harper abreast of the class' progress during weekly meetings.

"I used the app, ManageIt, and if a task isn't completed by the due date, I addressed it," said Amor, who graduates in May and has accepted a position with Indiana Farm Bureau in Indianapolis. "The day of the event, it was about working with Katelynn to make sure the ladies with Wabash Valley S.T.A.R.S. were happy with how the event was going."

The students managed to meet their deadlines without too many hiccups and learned the truth behind a phrase they commonly heard from Harper: If you haven't documented it, it isn't done.

"In corporate America, documentation is critical," Harper said. "In this case, the documentation not only allowed the project team to show me the work that they've done, but it will also allow the second annual Buddy Walk® to be conducted much easier because they won't have to reinvent the wheel."

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Photo: https://photos.smugmug.com/Events/Events-by-Year/2017/Buddy-Walk-2017/i-QWKDbv6/0/ed3bb009/XL/Buddy%20Walk_Garcia_05062017-42-XL.jpg - Participants in the inaugural Wabash Valley Buddy Walk® to raise awareness and support for those afflicted with the disorder walk the Indiana trail by Memorial Stadium on May 6. Indiana State University students in Jeff Harper's 400 level project management course in the Scott College of Business helped to coordinate the event as part of a class assignment this spring.

Photo: https://photos.smugmug.com/Events/Events-by-Year/2017/Buddy-Walk-2017/i-kZHG2Q5/0/8f75b3ed/XL/Buddy%20Walk_Garcia_05062017-41-XL.jpg - Participants in the inaugural Wabash Valley Buddy Walk® to raise awareness and support for those afflicted with the disorder walk the Indiana trail by Memorial Stadium on May 6. Indiana State University students in Jeff Harper's 400 level project management course in the Scott College of Business helped to coordinate the event as part of a class assignment this spring.

Writer: Betsy Simon, media relations assistant director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-7972 or betsy.simon@indstate.edu

Story Highlights

Students in Jeff Harper's 400-level project management course in the Scott College of Business volunteered their expertise during spring semester to help Down Syndrome Indiana (DSI) and Wabash Valley S.T.A.R.S. bring the walk to Terre Haute on May 6.

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