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University of Montana business students use skills to help local nonprofit

(From the Missoulian)

Matthew Sedgwick is a University of Montana College of Business student who will graduate in May, but some of the work he and his classmates did last semester is already poised to have an impact on the community.

This fall, Sedgwick was part of a class that helped design a website for a couple of programs of United Way of Missoula County through a course with the College of Business. He said the project was fun and instructive, and he's pleased students could participate in a web design effort from the ground up.

"I think it's cool they were able to get students to work on this, young people coming out into the world to work on projects like this," Sedgwick said of United Way.

Susan Hay Patrick, CEO of United Way of Missoula County, said the project represents the growing connection between campus and community. She said United Way had plans to merge its Volunteer Missoula and the Missoula Nonprofit Network programs into a new website, but there was a challenge.

"We didn't really have a budget, and we wanted something high quality," Hay Patrick said.

United Way's Eric Legvold knew UM Professor Clayton Looney had a Management Information Systems class looking to design a website, and the nonprofit pitched the idea of creating one that would have a lasting impact on Missoula, Hay Patrick said.

In a statement from UM, Looney noted the importance the opportunity to design a website presents for his students.

"It is absolutely critical to our students that they work on real projects with real consequences, and that's exactly what these types of projects provide," said Looney, also chair of the Management Information Systems Department.


Earlier this month, five teams presented their designs, and the competition was stiff, Hay Patrick said.

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"They pitched us like we were clients. They dressed up. They each had PowerPoint presentations. They justified their designs and why they had included different elements," Hay Patrick said.

Although Sedgwick wasn't part of the winning team, Looney noted all of the students produced elements that were relevant for the actual website and could be used in the final product. In an email to the students, he praised the collective result.

"Our combined contributions will lead to more positive outcomes for the Missoula Nonprofit Center going forward," Looney said. "From a broader perspective, you successfully showcased to the community the amazing work you are capable of producing, which will lead to opportunities for future students to impact people in our community."

Sedgwick said students had fun consulting United Way about their needs. The teams built a general design and selected themes and colors and added in functionality. He said next year, United Way will be able to finish up the project by adding in details the students don't have, such as event listings.

Hay Patrick said the presentations were so strong, the team of judges selected two finalists before choosing a winner. In a news release, UM noted the judges were from United Way, Blackfoot Communications, the Montana Nonprofit Association, Tobacco Free Missoula County with the Missoula City-County Health Department, the Downtown Missoula Partnership, and the UM Office for Civic Engagement.

Although Sedgwick's team didn't nab the win for web design, he's landed a job months before graduating. In May, Sedgwick will start work in Seattle with KPMG, an accounting and financial services firm. He interviewed with KPMG this fall when the firm came to UM to recruit.

"They love our students," Sedgwick said.

So does Looney, who thanked students in an email last week for making the fall semester the most rewarding of his career so far.

"You not only motivate me to reach my full potential, but also give me hope that, collectively, our future is in good hands. That’s exactly what I needed (and wanted) for Christmas," Looney said.


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