Ashli Goodenow started her internship at PowerPay in Portland feeling prepared for a summer of work in human resources. Though she still has her senior year of college ahead of her, Goodenow already has real experience in her field.

The projects she has worked on for Maine companies, through classes taught by Beth Richardson at Saint Joseph’s College in Standish, have made the difference.

The projects let students gain experience in human resources and learn important interpersonal skills such as public speaking, Goodenow said, while lending extra hands to businesses.

In January, Goodenow and her classmates worked with L.L. Bean to research which voluntary benefits, such as pet insurance and college savings plans, the company should offer its employees.

At the end of the semester, the group presented the company with its findings and recommendations, which included adding debt counseling and accident coverage.

Bean hasn’t made any decisions yet, but the students’ work will be important when the company uses it to develop a benefits strategy this fall, said Mark Cook, the students’ contact and Bean’s director of benefits.

“I was very impressed with the thoroughness and completeness of their work,” he said.

Cook said that while he enjoyed working with the students, he also had something to gain. “It’s work I didn’t have to do and spend time on, and it was very helpful to me,” he said. “It was a win-win.”

The projects are part of the curriculum that Richardson dreamed up about two years ago, while having lunch with one of her friends in the human resources field.

Too bad I couldn’t get any of my HR students to do some of your work, Richardson told her friend.

“We just had this ‘ah-ha’ moment where our eyes locked,” she said. “Why don’t we?”

The projects are part of nearly all of Richardson’s classes. They became instrumental in Saint Joseph’s business administration in human resources management major, which began in the fall of 2007.

The program prepares students to “graduate and be ready to step into an HR job,” she said.

At first, five or six students were interested. For this fall, Richardson said, 17 are signed up for her course. About 21 projects have been completed for nearly 15 businesses.

The classes meet regularly, with Richardson as their adviser. Their work with companies is typically done in groups, depending on class size and projects.

A salary-survey project is in the works for the fall semester with Applicators Sales & Services Inc. in Portland.

Tina Miller, the company’s director of human resources, heard about the opportunity to work with Saint Joseph’s students through the Human Resources Association of Southern Maine.

“I thought it would be a great opportunity to partner with the college,” Miller said. “I believe it would have more of an impact on (students) to think what they’re learning in a classroom really are the day-to-day things that happen at work.”

Cook agrees, and would encourage other companies to get involved.

“I really wish that I had this opportunity when I was in college,” he said. “Beth is at the forefront of connecting academics to the transition into the work world.”

Andrew Paladino, a 2009 graduate of Saint Joseph’s human resources department, is one of eight of Richardson’s students who took their schoolwork directly into the work world.

His class project with Woodard & Curran led him to a position he held there for 15 months, until he found a job at Unum. “It prepared me for life after college,” he said.

 

Staff Writer Stephanie Hardiman can be contacted at 791-6301 or at: [email protected]