Johnson & Wales – Directed Work Experience

April 10, 2013

Directed Work Experience


Directed Work Experience (DWE) projects provide students in the College of Business a capstone opportunity for the application of acquired skills and knowledge in a supervised, unpaid industry setting.
Through DWEs, students apply expertise developed in the classroom to a real-world product or project that will help local community-based organizations (CBOs) meet their service or business goals. The DWE program is particularly important to nonprofit sites, because it helps organizations that otherwise could not afford this expertise. All DWE students who work with CBOs are co-registered for a one-credit Community Service-Learning (CSL) course.


Projects are primarily recruited through the College of Business faculty members and administration, along with participation in the Social Venture Partners of RI (SVPRI) University program. The link between SVPRI and the College of Business has developed throughout the past two years, and the CSL coordinator, along with a faculty member and/or Assistant Dean is asked to choose projects for teams of students to work on. For example, a CBO may request that the student team:

• Conduct market research to understand the potential size of the market and the nature of the competition, from both for profit and nonprofit entities, in the specific market it seeks to enter;
• Conduct a benchmarking analysis to see who else, either in the for profit or nonprofit community, is offering the product or service, how they are doing it, and what the best practices are in the field;
• Make recommendations to improve the operational efficiency, effectiveness, or marketing efforts of an existing social enterprise.

Organizational Structure / Characteristics 

The CSL coordinator serves as the primary contact to students completing a DWE through a CBO, so that the student may complete their CSL requirement through the DWE if they choose. Students are recruited through the Assistant Dean in the College of Business, along with being recommended by faculty members to work on specific projects. Students apply for the opportunity to work on a DWE project through the Assistant Dean, who interviews every potential candidate. The students’ degree transcript is checked for number of credits, internships, GPA, etc. to make sure the student is eligible to participate in the course.

Faculty members are recruited by College of Business department heads and administration to serve as advisors for DWE projects. Faculty are encouraged to discuss their projects with the CSL coordinator if they are related to a CBO, so the office can account for service hours completed at the end of the term. The projects might also be appropriate for funding or publication materials.


Funding for the service-learning program is provided by JWU’s operating budget.


In 2011-2012, 167 students participated in DWE projects at 17 CBOs. Fifteen faculty served as advisors for the DWE projects. CBO “clients” included The Pawtucket Foundation, Save the Bay, Ocean State Tall Ships and Mathewson Street Church. Projects included marketing research, business plans; PR, ad and branding campaigns; cost accounting; grant writing; and event planning.


Big Sisters of RI (BSRI) is a nonprofit organization that positively influences the lives of young girls. The Big Sisters Donation Center, which collects used clothing and household items to raise money for its mentoring programs, needed an action-oriented marketing strategy to direct future activities. Accordingly, six College of Business students worked together throughout the academic year to conduct market research, analyze other clothing donation business models, and complete business and marketing plans. BSRI is using this information to advance strategic planning for sustainable growth and funding. Furthermore, a marketing plan was created in order to increase revenue through clothing and household item donations to the Center. The collection of information and development of marketing and business plans helped BSRI to create sustainable growth and funding for their organization.

The St. Ann’s/Amadeus Project involved collaboration between JWU’s College of Business and School of Technology and a Rhode Island nonprofit theatre organization. The project showcased the efforts of 35 students who contributed resources during the year-long project. JWU students were project leaders and conducted research, collected data, and analyzed documents in order to address the technical, marketing, and project planning needs of the organization. With the involvement of staff and faculty members, students created a website, marketing collateral, held a press conference, and developed and staffed fundraisers and events to assist the theatre group in meeting their goals and objectives. The end result of this project was a public theater production. This project allowed JWU students the opportunity to participate in the creation of art.

DWE service-learning programs have been profiled in the JWU Magazine and Admissions promotional magazines. JWU has a substantial commitment to both curricular engagement and outreach and partnerships. Experiential education is a hallmark of a JWU education, and these DWE projects provide strong hands-on learning exercises for the classroom, teaching students to work productively with a client in real-life situations. JWU as an institution is dedicated to civic engagement. These CSL projects carry the weight of JWU’s endorsement for admissions recruiting, grant applications, fundraising and advancement initiatives. Information on these initiatives are used by a wide range of researchers, administrators and policymakers to analyze and develop accreditation standards, conduct scholarly research and determine association membership qualifications.


Susan Connery, Director, Feinstein Community Service Center
(401) 598-1265
Or Joanne Galenski, Assistant Dean, College of Business
(401) 598-4645

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