Mobile Think Tank system teaches students, assists community
Contact: Tonya Lowentritt
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THINK TANK -- Elise Pierre, left, Barbara Schuldt, and Janet Bornkessle discuss the results of their group input on "Think Tank."
HAMMOND – Southeastern Louisiana University students now have a unique service learning opportunity thanks to ThinkTank, a new computer-based decision making software program in the College of Business.
Located in Garrett Hall, Mobile ThinkTank System (MTTS) is an innovative meeting facility equipped with technology that can enhance decision making and problem solving. The facility, complete with 15 laptop computers networked to run the ThinkTank software, operates as both a computer-mediated meeting place and a mobile computer lab.
ThinkTank’s collaborative tools give users the opportunity to collaborate with others in real-time, participating in activities such as brainstorming and capturing and organizing key thoughts for further analysis.
The facility is set up, operated, supported, and maintained by Department of Management faculty Minh Huynh and Barbara Schuldt and a group of student assistants.
ThinkTank’s value, Huynh said, is that students learn about it and use that experience to build a real database for non-profit organizations that truly need it.
“It’s a great match that we can provide this service to the community at no monetary cost to them, while our students are learning at the same time,” Huynh said. “The students are not only applying their skills, but they are also interacting with people, which allows them to see the needs of a non-profit organization.”
The first non-profit organization to benefit from ThinkTank is the Tangi Food Pantry, which the College of Business has worked with since 2005. Elise Pierre, a representative of Tangi Food Pantry, is a former student of Schuldt’s. When the pantry received a donation of computers, she approached Schuldt for guidance.
“The training we receive through ThinkTank will make us more accountable and transparent as an agency in terms of reporting purposes,” Pierre said. “It’s going to help leverage us to receive additional funding, hopefully through grants. It’s definitely invaluable.”
Janet Bornkessle, inventory coordinator of the Tangi Food Pantry, enjoys working with the students and loves the idea that they are aware of the food pantry and its function within the community.
“Working with the Southeastern students has been great because they are the ones that are going to enter the business world, generate food drives, and be involved with civic clubs to help us accomplish things,” Bornkessle said. “So it has been a learning experience of a different kind for them.”
Schuldt echoes that sentiment.
“It has been a powerful learning experience taking what we teach in class and applying it to create something concrete that an organization is actually going to use,” she said. The students, she added, view the experience as “not just an assignment for a teacher, but something that’s usable long term - something that they can be proud of.”
Schuldt said that ThinkTank can be operated like a conference call, although comments are anonymous. Since all data is captured electronically, there is also no need for note taking. The software facilitates simultaneous input by participants, providing a structured process for the group and discouraging irrelevant digressions or domination by any individual.
“People can be in separate locations and what’s posted on the screen is anonymous. So you don’t know if it’s your boss who made a particular comment or your fellow co-worker,” Schuldt said.
“The anoniminity helps minimize some of the typical office insecurities and enables individuals to comment who might not otherwise.”
Through funding provided by the Louisiana Board of Regents, University of Louisiana System, a federal grant, and the College of Business and its Department of Management, the Mobile ThinkTank System is available to businesses, non-profit organizations, and government entities in southeast Louisiana.
For more information on ThinkTank, contact Huynh at 985-549-3949 or Schuldt at 985-549-2405.