Wooster’s AMRE program celebrates 30 years of meeting client goals through student-led initiatives

Students Emmanuel Aboagye-Wiafe ’24, Sam Adjei-Sah ’24, and Endrias Tesfaye ’24 presented their research on childcare services to Community Action of Wayne and Medina Counties.

Providing solution plans to nationally recognized companies like Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, supporting the growth and development of community organizations, and connecting with clients in another part of the world to conduct market research and develop tools to achieve their goals are just some of the opportunities available to students at The College of Wooster through the AMRE program. Throughout its 30 years, AMRE, Wooster’s Applied Methods and Research Experience, has connected students, along with faculty advisors, to companies and organizations as teams of consultants that work together on an initiative the client identifies that will benefit from an outside perspective and skills.

“AMRE students work with clients in a comprehensive way from communicating about what the client’s goals are to coming up with the deliverables,” said Jill Munro, associate director of community engagement at the College. She compares the program to an internship in the sense that it gives students experience working in the real-world in a way that empowers them to provide new perspectives to the company or organization. “The projects have so much oversight by the students. They are really in charge of working with that client to fulfill the project within the time limits.”

Yasmine Fazazi ’24, a computer science and psychology major, is one of 37 students participating in AMRE for summer 2023. “AMRE has been the perfect opportunity to transition from theory to practice in terms of all the skills and knowledge I have accumulated in my classes and majors,” said Fazazi, who participated last year as well. “After AMRE, I see myself as a better problem solver and critical thinker.”

Emeritus Professor of Mathematics John Ramsay, started the AMRE program in 1993 as a way to help students answer the question “What can I do with a degree in mathematics?” The program supplies them not only with an answer but with an opportunity to put their knowledge and learning from their classes into practice with clients who can capitalize on their skillsets and availability.

Asad Khan ’93, who earned his degree in physics at Wooster, learned about AMRE through his connection with Ramsay. Now CEO of Kent Displays, a global leader in liquid crystal display technology, he’s found students on the AMRE teams he’s worked with to be “meticulous, willing to take risks, hardworking, and always ready to tackle challenges,” he said. “Their work led to key discoveries and benefits that we still use today in manufacturing and quality improvement. The students were engaged, benefited as well, and we would work with AMRE again as and when the opportunity arises!”

As dean of experiential learning beginning in 2012, Ramsay worked with APEX, Wooster’s Center for Advising, Planning, and Experiential Learning to expand the program across the disciplines. Students from a variety of majors serve local nonprofits and public-sector organizations while forming new connections for the College and its students through funding support from the Ralph R. and Grace B. Jones Foundation, Wayne County Community Foundation, Harbage Endowed Fund, and the Laura B. Frick Charitable Trust, among others. In addition, earth sciences professors Meagen Pollock and Greg Wiles, who partner with community businesses and organizations to study and combat climate change on a local level, work with AMRE to help their students build leadership and problem-solving skills.

“AMRE has been a powerful bridge builder between the community and the College,” said Ramsay. “It shows that there is valuable work that students from all disciplines can do in our community.”

As consultant teams for partners in the area, AMRE students meet with members of a wide range of organizations that support the community, including local businesses, non-profits, hospitals, and government agencies. “These meetings give students the chance to engage with the broader Wooster community and to develop a deeper understanding of the organizations that help it thrive,” said Melanie Long, assistant professor of economics, who acted as a faculty co-advisor with Brooke Krause, associate professor of economics, for a group of students researching collaborative opportunities for childcare services in Wayne County. “Meeting with the community partners who will be impacted by the initiative can offer students a renewed sense of why their work matters and promote a greater commitment to civic engagement.” Acting as economic consultants for Community Action of Wayne and Medina counties, the students provided an interactive map that compiled information about locations of employers compared to childcare providers with their capacities, ratings, services, and other variables as well as a list of community partners interested in collaborating to host or support a childcare facility in-kind.

“As nonprofits, or even for-profit businesses, we’re not in the business of research, so I really depend on the AMRE program to be able to provide that research and evidence-based prep and backing,” said James Fox, president and CEO of Community Action Wayne/Medina, who’s worked with AMRE teams on past projects in addition to this year’s Workforce Childcare Initiative. “Having a group that can dedicate their time and expertise, to quantify the need and flush out best practices provides a starting point for us to be able to move into action planning. Having that data makes it easy to make the case to funding entities and potential partner businesses.”

Building these connections with the community and learning to network and communicate on a professional level are just some of the transferable skills drawing students back to participate in AMRE year after year, and alumni who participated in the program as students continue to apply what they learned in their professions. “I participated in AMRE the summer after my first year, working on a development project for Buehler’s. The experience I gained there interacting with the CIO, analyzing business requirements, and working with a team to deliver a solution are the same sorts of responsibilities I’ve had throughout my career in technology,” said Chuck Nusbaum ’02.

The opportunity to complete valuable research for businesses and the community with the support of a team and faculty advisor is an opportunity Ramsay has been excited to share on a global level. Through a partnership the College developed with Ashesi University in Ghana in 2013 and the support of the Donald and Alice Noble Foundation, AMRE brings Ashesi students to Wooster to join AMRE teams working with businesses and the Wooster community offering a unique perspective to the teams and clients. Teams consisting of two Wooster students and two students from Ashesi University also combine their perspectives to solve problems affecting the Ghanaian community. Projects this year include the development of an inclusive app to teach Ghanaian Sign Language, as well as working with Tieme Ndo a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the productivity of Ghanaian farmers, to conduct market research and create a strategic plan. In future years, Munro and Ramsay hope to expand Global AMRE to include sending Wooster students to Ghana to work in an AMRE campus based at Ashesi.

Photo: Students Emmanuel Aboagye-Wiafe ’24 (pictured), Sam Adjei-Sah ’24, and Endrias Tesfaye ’24 presented their research on childcare services to Community Action of Wayne and Medina Counties.

Posted in Experiential Learning, News on August 1, 2023.

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