Learning Community Students

Joint Program Offers
Real-World Experience in Corporate Problem Solving


December 5 , 2006

By Pamela McLaren

Who knows better than college students how to recruit them to work for a Fortune 500 company? Thirty-three Cal State Fullerton students — selected for their creativity and ambition — are participants in a “learning community” researching and preparing plans on how to improve college recruitment efforts for Target Corp. 
The program is the brainchild of Irene Matz, assistant professor of human communication studies, and Kathy Brzovic, lecturer in marketing and business writing.
“We developed it as a collaboration to promote the integration of knowledge with the development of values, professional ethics, teamwork, leadership and citizenship skills necessary for students to make meaningful contributions to society,” Matz noted. “It gives these students a ‘hands-on’ opportunity to gain real-life experience with an organizational challenge.        
“The corporation, in turn, develops a relationship in concert with the students that provide a ‘teaching opportunity’ and community enrichment.”
 “Target likes getting involved on campuses where we recruit students,” said April Ueland, Target group campus recruiter. “We want students to see Target not only as a place to shop but also a place for a great career.”
Matz and Brzovic attended a January 2005 Faculty Day session on community learning and began talking about creating a “block” class, as well as bringing in a corporation that students could work with and learn from. The duo applied and received a University Planning Initiative in fall 2005, then spent spring 2006 developing the program and meeting with Target.
Last summer, 1,000 letters were sent to business and communications students telling them of the opportunity and recruiting them. More than 100 students expressed an interest, said Brzovic.
“We were trying to get a diverse student group with representatives from business, journalism, entertainment and international business,” she said. “We ended up with students from all the disciplines in both colleges.”        
Brzovic and Matz selected 33 students following an interview in which they discussed their strengths in technology, creativity, writing, field of study, career field, work schedule and ability to work as a team.
“We purposely didn’t tell them that the Fortune 500 company was Target,” said Matz. “We wanted to snag them on what this special program offered, the opportunity and what they could accomplish.”
The selected students co-registered in two upper-division courses — “Business and Professional Communication,” and “Advanced Business Communication” — taught by Matz and Brzovic. The courses, open only to the 33, were scheduled one after the other to provide three consecutive hours together in the classroom with an additional one-hour lab each week to work on group assignments, conduct research and videotape oral presentations.
“We believe that this is the first time that our two colleges have offered a ‘block’ of courses,” said Matz, a member of the campus since 1983. “It offers them a more focused, more targeted program that really delves into communication skills.”
“These students are doing more writing and speaking and lots of teamwork than they would normally get in any two other courses,” added Brzovic, who joined Cal State Fullerton in 1999. “It’s a lot of work.”
This semester the students have met with corporate officers, toured a distribution center and conducted focus groups in addition to developing their oral and presentation skills, as well as completing coursework on listening skills, workplace communication, conflict management and ethics.
“It’s a win-win situation for Target,” said Ueland. “It provides an opportunity to give students a real-world experience and we hope to get some great ideas from them. And maybe, some of these students will apply for a job with us.”

Thursday, Dec. 7, each student team will present a comprehensive communication strategy for Target’s campus recruiting effort. The presentations will be judged by Target administrators who will award the top two teams gift certificates for each team member — $200 for first place, $100 for second place. An awards celebration will be held in which the winning teams are announced.


Irene Matz
Irene Matz

Kathy Brzovic
Kathy Brzovic