January 14, 2019, BY Beth Kaszuba

Young women sit around a table in a classroom.
Sam Blount '20, right, discusses her team's web design project with teammate Bryn Wolgemuth '20. Photo by Emily Paine, Communications

Sam Blount '20 had never built a website before she and a team of fellow students tackled that task in a class — on behalf of a real client. Blount helped create the site to promote an equine-therapy business near Bucknell's campus as the focal point of a Markets, Innovation & Design (MIDE) course that paired student teams with organizations that lacked websites or wanted to improve their web presence.

With about 40 potential clients from which to choose, Blount's team, which included MIDE majors Bryn Wolgemuth '20, Lea Walsh '20 and Sophia Klaber '20, selected Positive Equine Partnerships (PEP). The nonprofit, created by Deb Mitstifer '78, enables individuals who suffer from depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues to interact with horses under the direction of certified therapists. The animals serve as nonjudgmental sounding boards.

"We were drawn to PEP because Deb's tackling such a difficult and important cause, and working with veterans and at-risk youth," said Blount, who also majors in MIDE. "We saw the most potential to make a difference with this client."

While building a website was already a new experience for Blount, she said MIDE professors Annetta Grant and Richard Kedzior added to the challenge by "designing the class to be ambiguous."

"Most classes give you so much detailed instruction," she said. "This course was the complete opposite. We were given the guidelines we needed, but then we could run with whatever we wanted to do — which was initially uncomfortable for me. But it's preparing you to enter the working world, where no one will be holding your hand."

Blount's team further challenged themselves by creating the PEP website without the aid of a template. They also used all their own images, shot at Full Circle Stables, where PEP is headquartered.

Blount with a therapy horse during a photo shoot for the web design project. Photo by Sam Blount ’20.

"We created the site from scratch, keeping PEP's mission and emphasis on simplicity in mind," she explained, adding, "From the first time we visited, we knew they had a special purpose. It became our team's personal mission to build the best possible product for our client."

Experience Supplements Classroom Learning
Kedzior added that the class operates on two levels, providing students with conceptual knowledge and practical experience.

"By working with local community businesses and nonprofits, students get to apply their knowledge and skills and, of course, experience firsthand how applicable they are," he said. "This is the greatest validation of all the effort they put in throughout the semester."

Blount noted that she had worked with a real client before, when she took Management 101, an experiential course that empowers first-year and first-semester sophomore students from across majors to create businesses that sell products to benefit local charities.

She chose to major in MIDE because the curriculum, which exposes students to a wide variety of creative, analytical and technical processes, seemed best suited to her desire for a wide-open career path.

"I want to go into a field that allows you to find creative solutions to problems," she said. "What I've taken from MIDE is that you can never assume there's a predetermined answer to a question. You need to use all your knowledge to come up with solutions."