TitleBobcat Enterprises Request Date2012-11-30
DepartmentCollege of Business
RequestorKregg Aytes Phonex6331
Campuses Bozeman Billings Havre Great Falls FSTS Extension MAES
Cross Depts Students from all colleges are eligible to participate.
Proposed Dates Start: March 15 2013 End:  
Bobcat Enterprises places students from across campus into student-run teams to address real-world challenges faced by Montana organizations. Itís an intensive, transformative experience that helps students apply their skills by engaging with the business and non-profit communities.

Currently, the College of Business conducts class-based consulting projects in several courses, where hundreds of students work with over 60 organizations each year. However, many potential projects do not fit within the timeframe or scope of a semester, and this would allow for a higher degree of engagement by allowing more students to work with more clients.
Strategic Goal: Members of the Montana State University community will be leaders, scholars and engaged citizens of their campus, local, state, national and global communities, working along-side community partners through the mutually beneficial exchange and application of knowledge and resources to improve the human prospect.
Objective E.1: Strategically increase service, outreach and engagement at MSU.

This initiative is designed to engage students, faculty, and staff of MSU with businesses, not-for-profit organizations, and the MSU Innovation Campus and the Technology Transfer Office in a very tangible way. Assistance provided by Bobcat Enterprises will directly benefit the client organizations and enhance the economic development of Montana. Client organizations will better appreciate the resources MSU has to offer and the role it plays in the well-being of the state. Further, including business professionals as mentors for the students provides yet another way that MSU can partner with members of the local community in a way that benefits students and clients.

MSU Goal: Prepare students to graduate equipped for careers.
Objective L.3: Increase job placement
Bobcat Enterprises will directly contribute to the economic development of Montana, facilitating the success of Montana businesses so they can provide employment for MSU graduates. Additionally, the experiential learning for students provided by Bobcat Enterprises provides precisely the type of real-world application of skills that employers seek. Our students working on class-related projects already receive job offers from their clients; Bobcat Enterprises will provide further avenues for developing relationships that lead to employment.
Funding Type: One-Time Only Funding Base (3-yr Recurring) Funding
  FY13 FY14 FY15 Base ($) OTO Startup ($)   FTE;
Salaries       28000      .5 
Benefits       8960       
Materials & Supplies              
Travel       2500       
Contracted Services       30000       
Other Operations              
TOTAL 69460    .5 
Please comment, if necessary, regarding cost and requirements.

Although Bobcat Enterprises will be primarily a student-run organization, it is vital that an experienced business professional have coordination and oversight responsibilities. This will provide continuity as students rotate through the organization. Most importantly, though, this will be a learning experience for the students, and an experienced individual is needed to provide guidance and to ensure that recommendations delivered to clients are of high quality. Although faculty members will also be involved in some projects, regular meetings with the student consultants, developing relationships with clients and mentors, and day to day management of the students must be done by someone dedicated to this task. This will take approximately 20 hours per week for this individual.

As stated above, students must be compensated for their participation in Bobcat Enterprises. This allows them to spend enough time (10-20 hours per week) to get projects done on a timely basis, and the income will likely replace wages made through some other part time job that the student would otherwise have. The compensation for the students is listed in “Other Operations,” and assumes that students will be paid approximately $10/hour. This amount allows for approximately 3,000 hours of services per year (recognizing that there are some benefit costs associated with student employees).

Over time, the goal would be to expand the number of students that can participate. This will be done by funding expanded operations from donations from those clients that can afford to contribute to the ongoing sustainability of Bobcat Enterprises.

Some travel by the coordinator and the students will be necessary to provide services to clients outside of the immediate area.

Describe the Proposal

Bobcat Enterprises is the epitome of student and faculty engagement with the community, accomplished in a way that provides experiential learning and economic development that leads to career opportunities for students. Students put theories into action by working in self-directed teams for the benefit of Montana. The College of Business has extensive experience with providing these services, but it has typically been done through class projects. Bobcat Enterprises provides an organizational structure that allows us to significantly broaden the scope and impact of our efforts by being able to engage in projects that do not fit within the scope of a typical semester class project. A greater number of clients will be served in a more timely manner.

Client organizations will be drawn from throughout Montana and the MSU community, where we have already experienced significant demand.  We have garnered significant interest from the MSU Innovation Campus (MSUIC), the MSU Technology Transfer Office, and TechLink, all who would like to use student consultants to support their activities. For example, Teresa McKnight, Executive Director of MSUIC, is interested in employing Bobcat Enterprises for the following:

  • Counseling entrepreneurs to help turn visionary ideas into high-tech businesses
  • Assisting and/or Preparation of Business Plans for MSUIC Business Partners
  • Assisting and/or Preparation of Marketing Plans for MSUIC Business Partners
  • Assisting and/or Conducting Market Research for MSUIC Business Partners


Similarly, Gary Bloomer of the MSU Technology Transfer Office has expressed interest in using student consultants to conduct research into the feasibility of commercializing technologies and ideas that emanate from MSU research labs. These engagements will provide an excellent opportunity to include student consultants from across campus, particularly from the STEM fields, as their expertise will be needed on these technology-oriented projects.

There is already a steady pipeline of clients from the Montana business and non-profit community because of our history of class projects. Each year, we are unable to serve numerous clients because their project timelines do not fit within our semester boundaries.

There is also another source of potential clients for Bobcat Enterprises: Students who need assistance in starting and operating their own businesses. Numerous MSU students currently run their own businesses, typically by providing some sort of service to the local community. To help them and others learn how to start and operate a successful business, we are submitting a separate proposal to implement the SMART Center (Student Managed Activities and Results Training). There is also a relationship with a third College of Business proposal focused on Peer Advising and Mentoring, which is supportive of the MSU Foundation's initiative to implement a student-alumni mentor network. The graphic below depicts a high level view of the related proposals and entities.

Key Components of Bobcat Enterprises

  • Provides a ready pool of student consultants available to work on projects that range in scope and complexity. Organizations cannot always wait for the beginning of a semester to begin a project, nor do all projects require a full semester to complete.
  • Because projects are not necessarily conducted on a semester-basis, students will be employed as part time employees of Bobcat Enterprises and need fair compensation. Student members of Bobcat Enterprises will work 10-20 hours per week.
  • To provide high quality work for the clients, employment in Bobcat Enterprises will be determined through an application and selection process.
  • To encourage creativity and innovation, students will be drawn from across campus.
  • In addition to serving Montana businesses and non-profits, projects will come from MSU’s own Technology Transfer Office and the Innovation Campus, as well as TechLink (an MSU partner that facilitates the transfer of technology between federal agencies and the commercial sector).
  • An experienced business professional will help manage the students and further ensure that clients receive high quality information.
  • Faculty members and other business professionals will be available to provide expertise and guidance to the student teams through a formal advisory board and by serving as mentors to the student participants.


Benefits of Bobcat Enterprises:

  • Intensively engages our students with Montana organizations (meets Engagement goal).
  • Provides career-related skills and professional connections that will lead to higher career placement for our students (meets Learning goal – specifically career placement).
  • Significantly contributes to economic development in Montana and provides an MSU-branded entity to increase the university’s visibility in the community (meets Engagement goal).
  • Enhances the reputation of MSU by contributing to the success of the Innovation Campus and the Technology Transfer Office (meets Discovery goal by providing additional resources and outlets for MSU research).

    This is a proven model for engaging students with the community. Many business schools have a similar organization, including, for example:

    • Michigan State
    • University of Colorado Denver
    • Idaho State University
    • California State University Fullerton
    •  University of Minnesota
    • Arizona State University


Describe the broader impacts and benefits of this proposal
  • MSU becomes a clear partner in economic development activities across the state.
  • Client organizations get high-quality help making crucial decisions that improve the economic development of Montana and the effectiveness of the non-profit sector.
  • Through this intensive, experiential engagement with real-world organizations, students are better prepared for the workforce.
  • Organizations and student have a unique opportunity to identify future employees and employers, leading to increased job placement.
  • Students from across campus work together, exposing them to different ways of thinking and increasing cross-disciplinary collaboration.
  • Increases the opportunities for faculty to engage in the community.
  • By including alumni and business community mentors, increases the opportunity for MSU "friend raising." Alumni love the opportunity to interact with students - this is an excellent vehicle for that.
  • MSU creates a lasting relationship with the community, providing the basis for future partnerships. At other universities that have implemented this type of effort, it has become an important source of positive public relations with the broader community.
  • Students will be involved in scientific research as they complete research projects for the MSU Technology Transfer Office to assist in the commercialization of MSU ideas and innovations.


Implementation Plan

During the spring 2013 semester, we will hire a .5 FTE professional to oversee Bobcat Enterprises.  Assuming this coordinator is hired in the latter half of the term, we will then begin recruiting students to participate. A few (2-3) students will begin during the summer, with an additional 4-5 students beginning in the fall 2013 term. The total number of students involved will depend on demand and students’ availability but will be approximately 10- 20 students per term.  Students will be responsible for marketing their services to the community. Following the model at other universities, Bobcat Enterprises will encourage donations from clients to help make the service sustainable and the students will be responsible for ensuring that their total expenses do not exceed the combined revenue available from university and donated funds. Over time, the goal would be to generate half of the operating budget through donations from clients.

Assessment Plan

Assessment of Bobcat Enterprises will be based on the following:

  • Number of hours spent working on projects (goal: 5,000/year)
  • Number of projects completed (goal: 40/year)
  • Number of students providing services (goal: 10/semester)
  • Satisfaction of the clients (determined through post-project questionnaire)
  • Economic impact (e.g. number of jobs created, money saved, or revenue increased) as reported by clients
  • Number of students receiving job offers from client organizations
  • Number of business professionals that provide mentoring to student students
  • Number of faculty members that engage in projects
  • Percentage of client organizations that contribute funds to Bobcat Enterprises (goal: 50%)
  • Total amount of client contributions to Bobcat Enterprises ($20,000/year). These funds will be used to expand services to include greater numbers of students and projects.
If assessed objectives are not met in the timeframe outlined what is the plan to sunset this proposal?

Fixed costs associated with Bobcat Enterprise are nominal (e.g. providing a few computers, which cost will be born by the College of Business). The coordinator will be hired on a year-to-year contract basis, and students will be paid hourly. The entire operation could be “wound down” easily if it is not successful.

Dean/Director: Kregg Aytes (
Executive/VP: Martha Potvin (