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Friday, May 17, 2013 - Graduate student contributions help move organization forward

For St. Joseph Mercy Oakland (SJMO), the decision to sponsor top Oakland University graduate business students through the School of Business Administration’s Experiential Learning and Innovation (ELI) program three years ago was an easy one – as good community outreach.

Making the decision to continue the partnership since was even easier, thanks to the contributions and expertise ELI students deliver.

Immediate benefits

Three years ago, SJMO became one of the SBA’s first ELI partners and quickly recognized the benefits.

The ELI program pairs top graduate students with organizations to help them solve complex business problems. In this case, students played a major role in a large-scale information technology (IT) initiative.

“Health care IT is continually expanding the need for data to make decisions,” says Jack Weiner, Pharm.D, FACHE, president and CEO of SJMO. “The systems are getting more sophisticated, and it’s going to take people with unique skill sets and combined educational backgrounds to understand how they work and how to deploy them.”

That, he says, is exactly what the SBA graduate students provide. ELI students worked directly with the SJMO IT team to develop its internal electronic real-time reporting system, known as Dashboard

Before Dashboard, SJMO managers received stacks of printed reports, which, by their nature, were outdated by the time they were distributed. Dashboard’s goal: to convert the printed reports into data that managers could access quickly and easily, then use to make timely decisions.

An elite formation

The partnership created an elite team that leveraged the system’s deployment and maintenance expertise of SJMO’s internal team with the ELI students’ advanced knowledge in programming and data analytics.

The students and staff collaborated on moving, organizing and presenting the data to optimize it for informed decision making. The result was a success. Thanks to the ELI students’ expertise in data systems, SJMO was able to deploy Dashboard in a broader, more efficient manner.

“It would have taken us quite a while longer to do it without the ELI students’ expertise,” says Weiner.

Advantages for everyone

The success of the first sponsored project has led to an ongoing partnership. “ELI students have become important to our business,” he says.

“It’s a cost-effective way for us to approach a major project,” Weiner explains. “But we think it’s also good corporate business to participate in the education of our community — and Oakland University’s SBA students come to us very well prepared.

“Oakland University’s SBA students bring enthusiasm to our organization, and can look at things a bit differently,” Weiner explains. “We encourage them to actively participate in the process, and it’s worked well.”

The SBA’s ELI program not only works for SJMO. It works well for promising young people preparing to enter the workforce.

“We provide an outstanding learning environment for students, which gives them the real-world experience beyond what they could learn in a book,” says Weiner. “Working in an environment where they’re interacting with people and applying their knowledge to achieving results is exactly what the educational process should be.”

Preparing a skilled workforce

As the health care industry becomes more IT-dependent and the need the skilled for workers increases, SJMO’s involvement in the ELI program helps the hospital meet another critical need:  preparing future employees for careers in health care organizations.

“And, the SBA students get a good experience they can put on their résumé and demonstrate their value to another company,” says Weiner.