BY JOE WEPPLER
Last semester, 28 teams of Conestoga students from the management, purchasing and supply chain programs raised over $11,000 for United Way Kitchener Waterloo & Area (UWKW) as part of their project management course. That number brings the fundraising total for project management students in the schools of Business and Media & Design up to $60,000 since 2012.
“It’s a great way for students to learn by doing. If you stop at planning, anything seems possible. It’s in the execution that the validity of your plan becomes apparent,” said Dave Barrett, the head of the project management course.
Barrett’s decision to use fundraisers as a method of teaching project management was twofold. Firstly, he needed a project that everyone could participate in from a general business background. Secondly, there was the added benefit of raising money and doing good for the community.
According to Conestoga’s website, the project management course aims to provide students with the knowledge and skills to manage projects from inception to completion. The fundraiser project involved months of planning and required students to apply what they had learned from the program.
“They have to develop it from the ground up. They have to come up with the concept, they have to plan it and they have to execute it,” said Barrett.
The project was certainly no cakewalk for the students.
“It was extremely challenging,” said Alexis Biermann, a second-year business administration management student. “We had to apply theoretical content into our real, live event almost immediately – there was a very steep learning curve.”
Biermann was one of a group of four students who planned an event called Bids 4 Kids. The event, which was hosted at the Waterloo Inn and involved a professional auctioneer raffling off 30 gift baskets donated by local businesses, raised a whopping $2,300.
“Being able to bring Bids 4 Kids to life was very rewarding,” said Biermann. “The best part of all was getting to work with UWKW and being able to raise money to actually benefit our community.”
Another event, Pancake Circus, was held in New Hamburg and raised $950 through a pancake breakfast, silent auction and children’s activities.
The proceeds of the events all went to United Way KW & Area. The association is the largest funder of social service programs outside of the government, and all funds raised are invested back into the Kitchener-Waterloo area to help sustain community programs, services and initiatives.
“UWKW were always supportive and helpful throughout the planning process and it was a pleasure to work with them,” said Biermann.
In the past, students were allowed to choose the charity they wanted the money from their events to go to. According to Barrett, advantages of that include firing up the students to really support something they believed in. However, he feels that one lump sum of money to a specific charity can be more impactful, and talks are already under way with United Way to see how Conestoga students can support their 2016 campaigns.