By: Justin Worthing ~Staff Writer~
Hours upon hours often go into projects for classes—only to have the project forgotten after the grade is received. A young start-up in the Williams College of Business, however, suggests a new approach to such projects.
Known as X-LINK, the start-up connects local businesses and nonprofits with undergraduate and MBA courses to create project-based experiential learning opportunities. Students in participating courses are assigned projects which address a need of their linked business. These projects both conform to the requirements of the specific courses as well as help solve a specific real-world need.
“(Students) can now be graded based on their work with community partners, rather than course-work alone,” Owen Raisch, X-LINK’s founder, said in an interview. “The projects are selected for each course to increase learning, so that students can learn that course’s curriculum by creating value for X-LINK partners.”
So far students in X-LINK have partnered with about 20 businesses from the Greater Cincinnati Independent Business Alliance (CiNBA) sponsored by Xavier, and the number is expected to grow in the future. CiNBA spreads the word about the X-LINK program to over 140 businesses from 20 different neighborhoods during their annual BuyCincy event.
Businesses in X-LINK remain in the program for 3-4 years, and the educational expertise provided by the faculty and the students has made some significant changes in both businesses and neighborhoods.
“Cincinnati Union Bethel (a nonprofit managing preschools, affordable housing, and rehabilitation services) had to close down 3 of their 10 sites,” Raisch said. “They’re trying to figure out where their market went, and our (Strategic Management) MBA course is going to help them figure that out and, if they need to, help them build a new location.”
Overall, Raisch is excited about the potential X-LINK and CiNBA have for creating a beneficial change in local businesses and neighborhoods.
“I know that Xavier students have so much potential to benefit our community (both after and during college),” Raisch said when describing the mission of X-LINK. “The best way to help students tackle local and international problems is to help them get started now.”
Both X-LINK and CiNBA are located in the Sedler Center for Experiential Learning in Business in Smith Hall room G14. For more information or to find out how to get involved individually with X-LINK, visit the Sedler office or CiNBA’s website at gcinba.org.