Davis College students provide website refresh for local nonprofit

May 09, 2024

Students in Dr. Jim Simak’s Organizational Design and Change marketing course along with students from Dr. Mini Zeng’s Special Topic in Computing Science course collaborated in a Business for Social Good project to design, develop and deploy a new website for First Coast Healing Hands, a multidisciplinary, medically directed program dedicated to easing the impact of child abuse and neglect on young victims.

Simak, JU assistant professor of Management & Entrepreneurship, says the course is a service-centered, immersive experience where students work with selected community partners and non-profit businesses on their most urgent problems or challenging opportunities to deliver positive social impact.

During this course, students learned about problem-solving, teamwork and how they can take this new knowledge into their future careers.

Micah Francis, a freshman with a double major in computing science and cybersecurity, and Francisco Carpio, a senior cybersecurity major and computer science minor, teamed up to work on the nonprofit’s website. 

Francis says she learned valuable problem-solving skills. “I learned to work in a collaborative environment with others in web development and design as well as discuss ideas with a wide group of people, using that to create a really big project,” she said.

Carpio, a recent graduate, gained knowledge about nonprofits and teamwork. “I learned how impactful First Coast Healing Hands is to the community and kids across Florida,” he stated. “I also learned to work as a team and to work with customers, which is very important to get their specified requirements met.”

Hannah Gagnon, a recent marketing and management graduate, along with Chaise Reagan, a junior sport business major, worked together on developing marketing materials, like business cards, a logo and flyers for the nonprofit. They updated all the web content and provided a new brand kit for First Coast Healing Hands. Dr. Ron Edelen, assistant professor of Graphic Design, also assisted in graphics and logo design for the organization.

Taking skills from the classroom and applying them to the real world and learning about the nonprofit sector were a few takeaways for Gagnon and Reagan. 

“It was really eye-opening to see how I could really take things that I learned in the classroom and transfer it to a job setting,” explained Gagnon. “This project helped me see that going forward, I’m leaning more towards a career in marketing rather than management.”

Reagan was amazed by what it takes to run a nonprofit organization. “I learned that volunteer work is a lot different than you’d expect. There’s a lot that goes into running a nonprofit, it’s not all about fund-raising,” she said.

Dr. Barbara Knox, acting division chief for the University of Florida Division of Child Protection and Forensic Pediatrics and professor of Pediatrics for the UF College of Medicine, said the website met and exceeded their expectations. “We’re so grateful to the students and faculty at Jacksonville University. They have worked tirelessly on the development of this website to help meet the community’s needs and to allow us to better serve them,” Knox stated. 

Dr. Laura Atkins, College of Arts & Sciences associate dean, says that this course is a prime example of how service-learning projects are mutually beneficial for JU students and the community partner. “The DCOBT students applied technical skills that they learned in their coursework to meet the needs of First Coast Healing Hands,” she said. “Through the project, the service-learning students learned to collaborate and successfully communicate with an organization which supports the students in further developing their professional competencies and engagement with community.”

Students shared that working on a project like this will help them as they seek full-time employment in their fields of study.

“Working on this project made me realize that whatever career I go into, I want to make a difference and affect people in a positive way,” said Reagan. “I want to seek out job possibilities where I can give back rather than just have an office job.”

Carpio says he now has something to show a future employer. “Employers will see this on my resume and can click and see a website that is fully functional and receiving donations. They can also see that I did something for a good cause.”

“I believe after participating in this project, it will help me get my foot in the door for any web development opportunities,” said Francis.

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