Extra credit

Wright State business students build a pavilion for service dogs in above-and-beyond community project

After their project was interrupted by the pandemic, Wright State M.B.A. students still took time to build a pavilion at the 4 Paws for Ability facility in Xenia.

There were many reasons for the Wright State University graduate business students not to complete the community service project. It was scorching hot. It no longer counted as a grade. And no one really expected them to. Yet they did.

The students on their own time built and erected a high-quality covered pavilion for the training of service dogs, months after completing the course that required it.

A nine-person team of M.B.A. students completing their concentration in project management began the project Spring Semester as their practicum. The work was designed to give the students the opportunity to plan, schedule, budget and carry out a meaningful service project.

The project was for 4 Paws for Ability, a service organization based in Xenia that trains and provides service dogs to children with disabilities and disabled military veterans. 4 Paws often works with Wright State students, who foster young service dogs in training, helping socialize the dogs by taking them to classrooms, cafeterias and other social settings.

The students’ project involved planning, assembling and erecting a permanent and well-constructed pavilion to provide protection from the elements for dogs in training, clients and staff members in an area in which the dogs are exercised and trained.

The heavy-duty post-and-beam construction of the pavilion was a good match for the engineering talent on the student team and fit well with the architecture of the rest of the property.

But the project was interrupted when 4 Paws had to close its campus in March to fight the spread of the COVID pandemic. That left the students with a garage full of raw materials and no way to use them.

When the course ended in May, grades were assigned based in part on the work that had been done prior to the suspension of face-to-face classes.

“I knew that the team had good intentions about someday completing the project, but I also recognized that such intentions often fade after the course is over and the final grades are in,” said Bud Baker, professor of management and a Robert J. Kegerreis Distinguished Professor of Teaching.

But on July 26, at the invitation of the students, Baker and his wife, Diane, a project management veteran, visited 4 Paws, which was back up and running while maintaining physical distancing guidelines.

“Conditions were really awful: blazing sun, high humidity, hoisting heavy beams by hand in a stony fenced area resembling a natural furnace,” said Baker. “But five of the nine team members were there, and they completed the entire job, working from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.”

Baker said hoisting the structure up without a forklift or crane was a heck of a chore in the searing heat for the students, who kept physical distancing guidelines in mind. And he said roofing and shingling in the heat must have taxed the students’ creativity and stamina.

The pavilion is an addition to 4 Paws’ outdoor training area, which lost its only shade tree due to a lightning strike.

“The final product is beautiful,” said KaLynn Clark, director of volunteer engagement for 4 Paws. “How awesome to have an area the clients can use outside and be protected from the sun and the rain. The design of the pavilion itself is professional and sturdy.”

Baker said that of the more than 120 community service projects that have been done as part of the project management course in the past 30 years, “this was by far the most ambitious, with benefits to 4 Paws that will last for years.”

“It is also the most dedicated student team performance I have ever witnessed and the best possible way to end my Wright State teaching career,” said Baker, who plans to retire Aug. 31. “What really set it apart for me was the students’ perseverance; the virus-driven delay gave them every reason to walk away, yet they didn’t.”

Students on the team were project manager Adam Bennett, Thomas Stang, KD Degraphenreid, Jena Stewart, Brandon Witt, Justin Kilgore, Jeff Campbell, Momodou Barry and Madison Murphy.

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