Johnson & Wales – Feinstein Technology & Design Center

April 10, 2013

Feinstein Technology & Design Center


Feinstein Technology & Design Center
Websites have become essential for nonprofits to convey mission, vision and values; communicate with potential clients; educate people on critical issues; and raise money. Unfortunately, many organizations cannot afford to create and maintain a Web presence, particularly in this economy. In response, Johnson & Wales University (JWU) School of Technology faculty organized an experiential education program known as the Web and Graphic Solutions Team.


After one School of Technology professor began offering successful service-learning projects through his web design classes, JWU sought to expand the opportunity for student learning and collaboration with community-based organizations (CBOs). The Feinstein Foundation provided funding to purchase the necessary technology to equip the Alan Shawn Feinstein Technology & Design Center (FTDC), which now provides free technological consulting and expertise to CBO’s through service-learning projects.

Organizational Structure / Characteristics 

The FTDC goals are to provide hands-on learning experience for students, and to provide design assistance in web and graphic solutions to local CBOs that are not able to pay a professional firm. Students from the School of Technology at JWU, Providence Campus are available during the fall, winter, and spring terms to work with CBOs for no-cost assistance in the areas of web and graphic solutions. A key component of JWU education is the integration of theoretical and academic learning with hands-on exposure and real-life experience. The FTDC aims to make this link by tying academic theory with hands-on experience. Students and faculty work with the client to produce a finished product. Services that students provide include: Print Material Design (brochures, logo design, posters, letterhead, business cards, templates, promotional materials) and Website Development (re-design of an existing site or creation of a new site). The Digital Media Design Solutions Team is one of the Experiential Education electives for the JWU School of Technology’s Graphic Design and Digital Media program of study. In this two-part course, this internship provides students with hands-on design and digital media projects from clients. Based in the FTDC, students work on a wide range of team-based projects from print design to web design and development. The final designs completed by students are presented to the client and then used in client organizations. Faculty oversees the management of the jobs and student leaders act as project managers and lead designers in their given teams.

The Digital Media Solutions Team is a direct application of skills learned in the classroom and meets the University’s community service-learning requirement. Students present their final projects to their clients at the end of the term and are given the opportunity to showcase the work done in class in their portfolio and resume building. Through this experience, students gain insight into what it is like to work with real-world clients. All materials created from each team are presented to their client throughout the term to ensure that the client’s needs are being met.


The technology equipment at the FTDC at Johnson & Wales University was provided through a gift from The Feinstein Foundation. The operating budget of the Center is supplied by JWU.


JWU conducted surveys to qualitatively and quantitatively measure its impact on CBOs. These students, using state-of-the-art equipment, have created websites, identity kits, brochures, banners, logos, posters, and other collateral materials for over 80 nonprofit clients in 7 years. In 2011-2012, 30 CBO clients received website and technological assistance. In 2010-2011, 17 students provided 850 hours of service in website design for 16 local CBOs. In 2009-10, 30 clients; 2008-2009, 17 clients; 2007-2008, 16 clients received website and technological assistance.


Three examples of 2009-10 student projects are summarized below:

Students designed a poster and postcard for The Center for Hispanic Policy & Advocacy’s “Smoking Art: A Youth Perspective,” which focused on decreasing health disparities among minority populations. Trinity Academy for the Performing Arts benefited from 3 projects: an identity kit to include their logo and letterhead; a website design; and 4 murals (“Music,” “Theatre,” “Dance” and “Film”) to beautify the charter school’s new space. Students created an action-based curriculum booklet for Generation Citizen to help college students teach civics to youth in disadvantaged public schools.

There are experiential education benefits for the JWU students and tangible, useful products for the nonprofit client. In February 2012, JWU Graphic Design and Digital Media student, Andrew Calipa ’13, was asked to complete a logo for the for the State House Soup Kitchen program. “Working with the FTDC students has allowed us to save money and time; it has given us the capacity to produce professional, effective publications. We’ve had the opportunity to work with talented and organized design students. It has been like having a graphic designer on call,” said Taylor Ellowitz, Communications Associate, Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless. The experience was equally fulfilling for Calipa. He states, “It was such a great opportunity to work for a client, let alone a community-based organization. Designing for a cause, that is so important—there really is no way to describe the feeling. Most of all, I was honored to work with Taylor; he was such a great client.”

The project has been featured in the Community and Economic Development section of the JWU Magazine, on the JWU website, and in JWU Admissions promotional magazines. The FTDC and JWU’s Feinstein Community Service Center also produce a newsletter about the program that is distributed to nonprofit partner sites, the Rhode Island Foundation’s Initiative for Nonprofit Excellence and the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities’ Expansion Arts initiative. This increases the visibility of the program in the local community, and particularly among local CBOs.


Susan Connery, Director, Feinstein Community Service Center
(401) 598-1265

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