Web developing and a symphony aren’t usually two things you picture together.
But in Ann Brice’s IT-Web and Software design class this summer at Western Technical College, it’s a match made in web developing heaven.
Brice’s class will be spending the summer term designing and redeveloping a website for the La Crosse Symphony Orchestra. Students have been working with the Symphony’s Executive Director, Tracy Gaskin, on creating a fresh look for the website, using software from Word Press and Divi.
The project is part of Western’s community engagement program, which takes credit courses and uses them to address and solve community needs. It is a large and unique part of the educational experience at Western. In total, Western’s programs spend over 9,000 hours per year in community development projects.
“Community engagement allows us to grow our communities, provide collaborative experiences and relevant coursework, and develop students to be civic-minded,” said Kari Reyburn, community engagement coordinator for Western. “One of the founding purposes of higher education in this country was—and still is—to develop students to be educated and civic-minded members of our community.”
For Brice, students are learning much more than simple programming skills.
“By doing this project, students are learning communication skills, time management skills, and teamwork skills,” said Brice. “They are also learning to how to speak with clients, listen carefully, and translate what a client says into a programming task.”
Students in the class say they look forward to the real-life experience working with a community client, something many of the students admit they lack.
“It’s really helpful to do something like this instead of bookwork,” said student Tyler Gauthier. “I think it will be a good experience to work with real people on a real project.”
The project is also exposing the class to La Crosse’s art scene. Because many were not aware of the art facilities available to them, Brice’s class took a tour to the Pump House, as well as attended a symphony concert last month.
“The students are becoming aware of their role in keeping our vibrant arts culture flourishing,” said Brice. “As such, they are making connections with various community members.”
“The experience as a whole is invaluable as far as learning how project work goes,” said student Alex Fernan. “But being able to work in the arts is pretty cool, and allows us to feel good about what we’re doing.”
Brice stresses the importance of Western’s community engagement program, and why it is essential to creating a better community.
“I believe it is important to integrate community engagement into every class we offer,” said Brice. “By making students aware of their obligations as citizens to support their community, we are setting our students and our communities up for relationships that will benefit everyone.”
Brice’s class plans to present the new website to the La Crosse Symphony later this month.
To learn more about community engagement at Western, visit www.westerntc.edu/community-engagement.