Experiential Learning: Yielding Benefits in the Classroom and the Community

Nov 12, 2021

by FSC Staff

Engaging with local businesses to apply theoretical lessons and skills discussed in the classroom is an important part of the business curriculum here at Florida Southern College. As an Associate Professor of Marketing within FSC’s Barney Barnett School of Business and Free Enterprise, Dr. Eric Harris believes that it is vital to engage with the local community in experiential education projects for his students.

Dr. Harris designs his Marketing Research classes around real-world projects that help local businesses while allowing students to implement core concepts and skills.

This fall, Dr. Harris had his students take on a project with Image Sun Tanning in Lakeland. Dr. Harris’ goal is to allow the students to gain real-world marketing research experience while also helping the management of Image Sun to market the business more effectively. The project engages students in the business concepts they are studying and serves as a valuable way of making a real impact within the local community.

The student’s work with Image Sun Tanning includes all the aspects of a standard market research project, from an initial proposal, to research design development, to implementation, to a final delivery of the students’ report and findings.

Dr. Harris and his students have implemented an online survey tool to assess the salon customers’ perceptions and attitudes toward the business. An important part of the project is developing an understanding of the customers’ satisfaction levels and areas of potential improvement.

Dr. Harris has taught his students that assessing customer perceptions is vital for business success, and now they are practicing the skills that are necessary to accomplish just that. The students and Image Sun have praised the learning experience.

student group photo
Dr. Harris and his students mapping out a future project with Lakeland's Painting with a Twist.

“Image Sun (Tanning) Lakeland is very excited to work with FSC students on this project and we appreciate all their hard work,” said Stephanny LeClaire, the salon manager of Image Sun Tanning. “The results of this study will help us to grow our business and better fulfill the needs of our clients. We are delighted to see that FSC students have the opportunity to engage with the local community to encourage growth here in Lakeland!”

The students are really enjoying the practical nature of engaging their classroom theory by working with a local business.

"I feel like we, as students, really benefit because we get to interact with a small business and make connections within the community and implement what we are learning in a meaningful way, to help a local business,” said Sammie Evans ‘22, a marketing major. “It feels great to engage with businesses locally.&rdquo

For Dr. Harris, the project ensures that students are engaged in the learning experience by working with real-world clients.

“By including projects like these we are able to get outside of the classroom, provide engaging experiences for our students, and enable local businesses to grow and flourish,” Dr. Harris reflected. “It’s really a win-win for everybody!”