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Students MAP the future of Clark County businesses

The College of Business Mentor and Analysis Program brings together local businesses and students at Washington State University Vancouver in a way that benefits both. Since spring 2011, MAP has provided free consulting services to help over 50 businesses and non-profit organizations in Southwest Washington grow and meet their goals. In the process, MAP provides business students the opportunity to put classroom knowledge into practice, gain consulting skills and develop project management skills.

There are currently 16 local companies working with MAP, and the program expects to have over 30 for the academic year. Participating clients receive an estimated 600+ hours of consulting time from students, mentors, advisors and faculty.

Teams of WSU Vancouver students are matched with their MAP clients through a bidding process that allows students to identify the clients in which they are most interested. The teams work under the direction of faculty with support from seasoned business professionals. By the end of the semester, each team presents an assessment of their organization’s financial, competitive and operational dimensions. This includes recommendations that can move businesses to the next level of success and a timeline for taking the next steps.

Every WSU Vancouver business student participates in a MAP project at least once in their final capstone course. They may also conduct MAP consulting in their accounting and marketing classes.

WSU Vancouver is the only WSU campus that offers the MAP program.

“We have been conducting [business consulting] projects [on the WSU Vancouver campus] for over 15 years and decided to bring them all under one coherent umbrella, hence MAP was born,” said Jane Cote, director of the WSU Vancouver College of Business. “We’ve worked with our colleagues at University of Washington where a similar program has existed for more than 20 years to integrate their best practices into MAP.”

Miranda Wall is a WSU Vancouver senior currently working on a MAP project in the course Entrepreneur 492. She and two other students on her MAP team must identify their chosen company’s most important opportunity for improvement.

“We will be working with the company all semester,” Wall said, “so we will have a strong understanding of their financial statements, marketing strategies, etc.”

MAP teams evaluate the financial health, the competitive environment and the internal capabilities of the client. Recommendations are provided in each area to assist them with financial decisions, better understand their customer and competition and assess the strengths and weaknesses of their operations.

When the semester ends, a mentor works with the client for several months to review and implement the students’ recommendations. Mentors are professionals from the community with experience assisting small businesses.

“It’s a great program. I get to practice everything I’m learning with a real company, which helps me understand the concepts better,” Wall said. “I also like collaborating with local businesses, because I am giving back to my community.”

Students stand to gain more than just experience from the MAP program.

“Several mentors and clients have indicated that they expect one benefit for participating in MAP is to meet their next great employee,” Cote said.

MAP is supported financially by WSU and through generous gifts from corporate and individual donors. To date, JP Morgan Chase & Company is the largest donor. Chelsea King, MAP board member and Chase executive, calls MAP “a win-win-win program”. She said MAP benefits students with hands-on education and prepares clients to continue their success in the community. The anticipated result is an opportunity for more jobs and a healthier community.

“This gift from JP Morgan Chase & Company expands our capacity to provide our students meaningful opportunities to enhance their business education while providing small businesses in our region with valuable advice, supported by faculty and professional mentors,” Cote said. “We appreciate that JP Morgan Chase & Company recognizes the contributions we have provided and the promise that this program offers to become a rich regional resource for economic advancement.”

In addition to JP Morgan Chase & Company, other area businesses serve on the MAP advisory board including Sterling Bank, Riverview Bank, the Small Business Development Center, J. Simpson McKibben Company, Columbia Credit Union, U.S. Bank, Lest Mischke, CPA, Palmabriz Industries and DM2 Software, Inc.

For more information on how to be involved as a student, mentor or a client organization, email bgmap (at) vancouver.wsu.edu or call 360-546-9533.

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