Project Management Class Creates Materials for Special Olympics National Games

Approximately 3,000 athletes will travel to Lincoln in July to compete in the 2010 National Special Olympics Games.

About 8,000 volunteers will work together to make the national games — one of the largest sporting events of its kind in the world in 2010 — a success.

It’s an event thousands more are excited to be a part of including 11 Nebraska Wesleyan University students who played a significant role in its planning.

Students enrolled in a project management class through Nebraska Wesleyan’s Advantage Program have spent months putting their classroom lessons to the test. Their challenge was to create materials for the expected 8,000 volunteers.

The idea began when professor Pam Soderholm mentioned to her project management class that she intended to volunteer at this summer’s national games. As her students listened, it didn’t take long for them to ask if they could use the national games as a real-life case study. After all, students would soon be assigned the task of demonstrating their understanding of program management through a special project. The goal of the project management course, said Soderholm, is to give Advantage Program students insight into what project management entails and the challenges encountered when working with teams, meeting deadlines, and changing the project’s scope.

“This was the first time the project was done somewhere off campus,” said Soderholm, “I was really hoping to find something that gives real experience.”

They contacted Deb Stroh, Director of Volunteer Services for the USA National Games, to see how they might be able to help.

“I could not have been more pleased when Nebraska Wesleyan contacted me,” said Stroh. “It was phenomenal to see them work.”

The students became actively involved in the planning. Students were divided into four teams, each taking on four significant projects: create the volunteer handbook, make a pocket-size volunteer handbook, record a volunteer training video, and create a plan for the distribution of uniforms and credentials.

The National Special Olympics Senior Manager Annette Lynch visited the project management class several weeks into the course.

“They were going above and beyond the call of duty to help make this work,” said Lynch, “What this class has done has probably transcended what they thought. They provided quality information so the games will be done with the utmost professionalism.”

Lynch said the students’ planning will touch almost every phase of the event.

During Lynch’s class visit, she brought a Special Olympian, Christian, who described the impact Special Olympics has had on his life. He explained how the Special Olympics gave him the opportunity to see what he was capable of and reach his full potential.

“Christian’s visit gave a personal touch and allowed us to see the impact of the Special Olympics and actually see what this is all about,” said student Jim Rigg.

Students will put the finishing touches on their projects within the next couple of weeks and share their outcomes during a class presentation.

And their efforts will not stop there. Many of them plan to witness the fruits of their labor when they volunteer at the games this summer.

The 2010 Special Olympics will be held July 18-23 at facilities throughout Lincoln.


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2010 USA National Games