UNI and Cedar Falls team up to educate high school students
When the Cedar Falls Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CF CAPS) launched its Business Communication and Design program at the beginning of the 2017-18 school year, it was located in downtown Cedar Falls. The goal was to connect high school students with local Cedar Valley businesses via proximity.
But after the first year, the program was looking for a new location to spur collaboration and learning. That’s when Ethan Wiechmann, lead instructor for CF CAPS, ran into Patrick Luensmann, senior program manager with UNIBusiness’ Center for Business Growth and Innovation.
“I think he ended up in my office through serendipity,” Luensmann said. “They were excited about the prospect of being in our building where they could have access to the same resources we use to assist local businesses.”
The ensuing conversation led to a partnership between UNIBusiness and CF CAPS, specifically the Business Communication and Design program. Beginning fall 2018, the program moved into UNI’s innovation incubator, newly named 8120 SparkZone.
“These spaces allow our associates to transition out of a high school setting and into a professional setting needed for our program to be successful,” Wiechmann said. “The physical space is greatly appreciated, and at the same time, it is the programs, the staff and the resources on campus which has provided the necessary supports for our student-associates as they develop professionally.”
Focused on student growth
The goal of the CF CAPS program is to spark active learning. Students tackle real-world problems, projects and designs for Cedar Valley businesses. This allows students to gain valuable professional skills and knowledge, as well as insight into career opportunities, before graduating into the workforce or post-secondary schooling.
“The program strives to remain on the cutting edge of evolving workforce needs, working closely with businesses and post-secondary partners to develop work that reflects emerging trends,” Wiechmann said.
The CF CAPS program began in January 2016 with one instructor, one business developer, 13 students and one program—Technology and Engineering. Positive reviews led to the addition of two new programs in 2017—Education and Business Communication & Design—growing from 13 to 75 students. With Medical and Health Services added this year, CF CAPS is now serving about 140 students throughout the Cedar Valley.
Good for all
The CF CAPS – UNIBusiness partnership provides advantages to both sides. For UNI, high school students become familiar with the range of educational opportunities at UNI, which can lead to more enrollees from the Cedar Valley area. For CF CAPS, UNI’s 8120 Spark Zone ensures students have access to top-notch professionals with years of experience guiding and growing new businesses.
The biggest advantage to UNI has been the CF students themselves. They bring a fresh perspective that challenges even the most accomplished professional.
“They bring a lot of energy to what they’re doing,” Luensmann said. “They help us look at things differently. They are a resource for the people here, and they are hustling to work on new projects. Eventually, they’ll either make awesome business owners or better employees than they would’ve been without this program.”
This partnership also benefits the Cedar Valley at large. As the students become more involved with local businesses, they create connections with potential employers. That could help when the students are considering employment opportunities in the future.
“When we launched CF CAPS, one of the main objectives was for the student-associates to work with local companies on projects,” said Nate Clayberg, head of business development for CF CAPS. “What has developed over the last three semesters is that the associates, and even their parents, get to learn more about the companies in the Cedar Valley… With CAPS, we are developing them in the Cedar Valley and hope they work in our local companies after they are done with their education.”