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Hands-on learning

Students get real-world experience on the job

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  • Story by Nancy Moen
  • Photos by Shane Epping and Keith Montgomery
  • Published: July 19, 2012

“How can I help you?” a student asks customers at MU’s Buck’s Ice Cream Place, where the enticing treats are developed and homemade on campus.

What’s cool about a student scooping frozen confections is that she’s also working on academic credentials in food science and knows what’s behind the business. So feel free to ask questions about research on products in development, including ice cream with the health benefits of fiber, antioxidants and yogurt-like probiotic bacteria.

Students working as part of their academic training is a recipe for career success and a familiar scenario at MU businesses campuswide.

Undergraduate and graduate students gain experience by using their acquired knowledge in entrepreneurial endeavors that serve the public and stimulate the economy – whether that be reporting area news, managing a B&B, teaching toddlers or reducing the impact of language disorders.

The Missouri Method of learning

The Missouri Method for School of Journalism students requires they learn by doing, a strategy that maintains the school’s long-standing reputation for producing graduates ready to work.

Led by faculty, students practice their craft in jobs at journalism businesses – a print and online daily newspaper; an NBC television affiliate; and an NPR radio station.


Every semester the newsrooms at KBIA, KOMU-TV and The Columbia Missourian receive an influx of new employees. At KBIA, that’s 80 to 100 reporters and anchors and 10 to 15 on-air hosts who will work for course credit — training required for students enrolled in beginning broadcast journalism.

KBIA also hires students to work in promotion, sales and marketing through a variety of academic programs and with the University Concert Series in sales, office assistance and public relations.

“Most of the students who stay in our newsroom get jobs,” says station Manager Michael Dunn.

After working three semesters at KBIA, Scott Kanowsky of Los Angeles, a May 2012 graduate, is off to WBEZ in Chicago as a business reporter. His résumé included a description of how he picked up a recorder and drove to Joplin, Mo., to cover the 2011 tornado damage. Kanowsky made sure the WBEZ interviewers knew about his broadcast experience in reporting.

“I told them everything I did at KBIA is what you end up doing in the real world. Instead of just learning everything in theory, you do it practically, too. It’s why I came to Mizzou,” he says.

Columbia Missourian

Future reporters, editors, photographers and designers hone their skills through assignments at the daily Columbia Missourian and at the weekly Vox magazine, published on Thursdays.

Faculty members and 25 teaching assistants — advanced students working as subeditors — direct the work flow of the 150-200 new student employees each semester, as well as 50-75 in summer and 25 during the winter intersession.

The work experience runs the gamut of journalism jobs. Photojournalists cycle through a semester as staff photographers. Page designers and graphic artists create multimedia displays in a new world of convergence journalism. Student reporters not only have news beats, such as education, sports or religion, they also cover breaking news. And editors take shifts on the interactive copy desk from 6 a.m. to midnight to update the Web-based Missourian.

“Editors read copy, write heads and fact check but also use Twitter and other social media platforms to freshen the site all day long,” says Managing Editor Jeanne Abbott about how technology is changing journalism.

KOMU-TV, Channel 8

Broadcast students needing on-air experience staff the KOMU newsroom in numbers that range from 90 to 120 each semester.

“Having students around makes every day pretty fresh. There are general work rules that must be followed, and sometimes it takes employees time to learn. Then you have a whole new group and start from scratch again,” says Marty Siddall, station manager. 

It’s the Missouri Method in action. Students do nearly every job in the newsroom, guided by five journalism faculty members and full-time anchors, says News Editor Stacey Woelfel: “This level of involvement gives them experience like they would find in a first full-time job.”

As part of their academic training, broadcast students work in reporting and production. They serve as anchors, report news and weather, cover sports, edit stories, take photographs and produce a newscast. At the end of the semester, they understand how to gather, edit, write and present a story.

A few other journalism students do station promotion, production and sales, and students of atmospheric sciences work with the station’s meteorologists and weather casters.

When the students graduate, they can list KOMU on their job résumés as preparation for employment in markets larger than Columbia and Jefferson City.  

College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources

While earning science degrees, CAFNR students learn the art of customer service through interactions with the public.

Tiger Garden

Tiger Garden grows with the good ideas of student employees — mostly in plant sciences — who have experienced this entrepreneurial environment since the business opened in 2005.

Directed by a manager and a student manager, 10 or more students staff MU’s full-service floral shop, selling fresh arrangements, houseplants, gifts and balloons as well as providing special-event decorating.

Students learn what it's like to solve the unexpected challenges of a daily business serving campus and community, including the massive rush of holiday and special-occasion needs.

Showing their ingenuity, the students develop new products that appeal to customers who live in residence halls. That’s why bowls of colorful Beta fish and exam-time survival kits are now staples of the business.   

Gathering Place B&B 

With its “white-glove service,” Mizzou’s own bed and breakfast just off campus is not only an educational capstone experience for an elite group of hospitality and management students, it’s rated the #1 bed and breakfast in Columbia by

In early June, the Gathering Place served its 10,000th breakfast , affirming its significance as a teaching lab and its popularity with campus visitors. MU’s College of Agriculture Foundation, a private corporation, owns the historic structure built in 1906 and leases it to CAFNR.

Forty to 50 students work in teams on marketing and management for the B&B each semester, and four to six students perform the operations part of the business, from reservations to cleanup. Students prepare the rooms, interact with guests and cook and serve breakfast following a style that delivers a luxurious experience.   

About 410 students are enrolled in CAFNR’s hospitality management program. Graduates of the program have food, beverage and hotel careers worldwide.

Culinary Café

The 40-50 hospitality management students who staff the Culinary Café develop business concepts to draw lunch customers. They plan menus, take reservations, cook and serve the meals.  

Lunch and dinner are served in the café at Eckles Hall during fall and spring semesters. Large groups may book lunches in private rooms.

As part of their academic capstone course, upper-level undergraduate students develop theme evenings for the popular Dinner Series, which is always a sellout. Customers dress for the dinners to experience elegant four-course meals that are served with wine and enhanced with décor and live music.

Working in teams, the students showcase their knowledge and skills in planning and coordinating menus, room layout, budgets, employee staffing, meal production and service.

Mizzou Meat Market

Mizzou Tigers and townsfolk alike can satisfy their inner carnivores with a shopping trip to MU’s Meat Market, according to market promotion. With its expanding popularity, the Meat Market is seeking trademarks for Mizzou-developed products such as as Tiger Tail bratwurst.    

Meat science, animal science and food science majors staff the meat market, where they cut the USDA Prime meat traditionally or by special order, sell the products and even give cooking advice.  

These students most likely won’t be found working in your favorite grocery store after graduation. With careers linked to quality control, many will become plant supervisors who maintain the safety of food production.   

Buck's Ice Cream Place

Care to sample the Tiger Stripe? A handful of food science students work at Buck’s Ice Cream Place, helping to develop new flavors, staffing the front shop, producing, packaging and gathering feedback on the ice cream.  

Buck's is the most visible part of MU’s dairy laboratory. Behind the storefront is a research, teaching and service laboratory contributing to the science of frozen desserts. Students learn everything about ice cream from maintenance and inventory to manufacturing and retail. Recently Buck's acquired two small ice cream trucks for serving customers in the central part of campus. 

Since opening for business in 1989, Buck’s has continually offered many delicious reasons to be proud of MU.  

Serving children and families

Robert G. Combs Language Preschool

The 10 students who staff the Robert G. Combs Language Preschool immerse children in language models and opportunities. Using individualized attention, the student clinicians help build social skills and literacy in children ages 3-5.  

Children with or without speech and language difficulties benefit from the language-rich atmosphere and expertise of seniors, graduate students and faculty in the Department of Communication Science and Disorders.  

The focus is on “children who don’t have much of a vocabulary and aren’t talking much or at all,” says Director Greta Hull.  

Most of the 12-16 enrollees each semester have been diagnosed with mild to moderate speech or language problems. Some speak English as a second language. Others are peer models for the group.  

MU Child Development Lab

MU’s teacher-training and research lab school functions as a sought-after educational preschool for the community.  

“The MU Child Development Laboratory serves 90 area families with high-quality childcare in a model setting,” says Director Jessie Bradley. The CDL is a licensed and accredited facility affiliated with the Department of Human Development and Family Studies.

Local children — infants to pre-kindergarten — experience one-on-one interactions with 130 Mizzou students seeking teaching experience for classes in child development and education, child life, family studies or early childhood education.  

Students work for course credit and, through observation and participation, learn firsthand how to become effective teachers. Each room has observation booths with one-way mirrors and headsets to facilitate research and training.   

To get the full experience, students of education and child development run the classrooms. They plan activities, develop curriculums, communicate with parents and assess learning. Students from other departments participate regularly, as well. 

Among those, psychology and psychiatric residents observe monthly to practice assessments. Students of language and communication disorders observe children’s development and hear samples of their conversation. Nursing students practice weighing and measuring the children. Art education students work individually with children on sketching and writing. Elementary education students practice group reading.   

Let’s communicate better

Accent Modification and Pronunciation Program

Speaking with an accent is not a language disorder, but help is available for English speakers who want to reduce the impact of an accent and aid listener comprehension.

The Accent Modification and Pronunciation Program is a nationally recognized program focusing on interactive communication techniques for nonnative English speakers to improve their pronunciation and intonation of English. Clients typically are students, instructors and professors who have strong skills in written English but need practice with listening and speaking.

Paired each semester with six to eight graduate students of communication science and disorders, the participants receive a lot of personal attention.

“Intelligibility ratings indicate clients make a significant improvement in one semester,” says Assistant Clinical Professor Dana Fritz.

MU Speech and Hearing Clinic

Students of speech-language pathology in the Department of Communication Science and Disorders will function in a complex field after they graduate.

They need “intensive training” to become speech pathologists, according to Clinical Associate Professor Barbara Brinkman, director of the MU Speech and Hearing Clinic. The clinic has helped prepare students for their future careers since the 1940s.

In clinic, graduate students work with clients as young as 12 months on developmental speech disorders and hearing impairments, which can be articulation, stuttering or inability to learn words or speak in sentences. They assist adults who have voice disorders such as hoarseness or lack of volume, pitch problems, nasal problems and complications from strokes and dementia.

Students spend 25 observation hours and 375 work hours in the speech and hearing clinic, and it pays off. Most have a job before they graduate.

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Last updated: June 6, 2013