A win for Woodstock: MBA students and city collaborate on economic project

WoodstockSquare

Downtown Woodstock

Having a college location in the county seat of McHenry County is proving beneficial for many students as well as the City of Woodstock. The access to higher education, experiential learning, and collaboration between Aurora University Woodstock Center and the city are contributing to the vitality of the area.

The city-university partnership recently resulted in MBA students conducting a study about the attitudes of residents and business executives regarding the Woodstock economic environment and potential for further development. Students in the AU Marketing Management course connected with Cort Carlson, Woodstock Community and Economic Development Director, and were charged with surveying Woodstock business owners and residents to gauge their attitudes about the community.

The survey results revealed shopping patterns or  behaviors; resident consumption preferences; confirmation that the downtown square is crucial to the economic performance of the city; and that careful economic development is desired by residents and proprietors alike.

David Diehl, Chair of Graduate Business Programs at Aurora University, saw several benefits of the student project. “The students reported considerable engagement in marketing research through having a live project to study,” he said. “The City of Woodstock got the benefit of the research expertise of the instructor, Robert Harris, the collaborative thought of the students and project management of the study. As a result, the Economic Development Commission received a detailed, professional report of community attitudes at no cost to the city.”

There was also a local connection that drove the project. “Several of our students are Woodstock residents,” said Diehl. “As such, they had a vested interest in the outcome of the project and further connected with the assignment.”

According to Diehl, students learned that surveys are complex and take considerable thought; understanding a business problem often requires several layers of questions; the interests of all constituencies in a project are not always completely aligned; and there is power in combining the thinking of multiple participants.

For Cort Carlson, the economic development survey was a highly successful first project between Aurora University Woodstock Center and the city, and the potential for future partnership is very strong. “In terms of economic development, having a university and MBA program located in the community attracts well-educated, upward mobile professionals to Woodstock.  While they may not reside or work in the community at the moment, we are able to create a connection and affiliation which may someday result in new business development and a sense of entrepreneurship in the city. In addition, employers looking to expand or locate in Woodstock are concerned with a well-trained and educated work force. It is definitely a feather in Woodstock’s cap to boast the Aurora University downtown center. Woodstock looks forward to Aurora University growing its class offerings, student population and campus here.”