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WMU class makes it its business to help non-profits

March 21, 2008

BENTON HARBOR, Mich.--Restarting a city's recycling efforts, relocating a non-profit thrift store and organizing a fall art fair are part of a unique class experience for 14 students in a Western Michigan University business administration class this spring.

Taught in Benton Harbor and primarily attended by employees of appliance manufacturer Whirlpool Corp., the goal of the class is to complete team projects related to integrated supply management. This semester, all of the projects ended up being oriented to public service, and they reach beyond Benton Harbor to South Haven and Stevensville, says Dr. Robert Landeros, professor in WMU's Department of Management.

"It shows Western students are trying to give something back to the community," says Landeros, who has been a member of WMU's faculty for 19 years. "It is exciting to see students apply theoretical concepts to projects that will help three southwest Michigan communities directly. Additionally, since these students live and work in these communities, I see a passion to make their communities better places to live."

Projects include a group helping the city of South Haven restart its recycling efforts after its only recycling business in town, Reliable Disposal, closed its doors. The student group is working to identify why the recycling center closed, how a new center could be opened and operated, and how to further educate the public on recycling. Its findings will be presented to the city council in April.

Students also are assisting the Lighthouse Attic, a non-profit thrift store business with proceeds benefiting the Michigan Lutheran High School, to find a new building once its lease at its current location in Stevensville ends. The student team is looking for a less expensive rent and more open layout, and also hopes to be involved in organizing the move and advertising the change to the community.

Another team is helping Benton Harbor's New Territory Arts Association, a non-profit arts advocacy organization charged with creating a vital arts district in the community. WMU students are creating a plan to improve fundraising for the fall art fair, Artoberfest. The daylong event features works from many talented artists, food from local businesses and live entertainment throughout the day.

Media contact: Deanne Molinari, (269) 387-8400, deanne.molinari@wmich.edu

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