Graduate student Heather Reynolds has spent whole Sundays inventorying a clothing boutique, talking shop with local drone industry professionals, and visiting nearly 20 chamber of commerces in central Georgia. It’s not what you’d expect from an average master of management information systems student, but it’s been her experience working for the Center of Design and E-commerce (CODEC) on campus.
“I do an incredible amount of multitasking here at the Center, and I work with many different industries. It has certainly been an experience that I never thought I would get while doing my graduate assistantship at Georgia College,” said Reynolds, who graduates in May 2017. “I work with an average of three customers a week, and I’m regularly returning phone calls and emails from potential clients. No two days is ever the same.”
While the Center has been a staple of the Department of Information Systems and Computer Science for over 15 years, it’s recently been revitalized in part due to a recent $63,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA.) CODEC serves as a learning resource center that provides a variety of web-based support and development services to local businesses, government agencies and regional organizations. The grant has helped fund and target those resources to specifically rural counties in Georgia, which Director Caroline Collier says is integral in their outreach efforts.
“Because of the USDA grant, we are able to offer our services to more businesses in other rural counties outside of Baldwin county,” said Collier. “There are a lot of businesses in surrounding counties that are still suffering from the recession. So a resource like ours is vital to keeping them competitive.”
The Center offers services including website creation, content management, development of logos, e-newsletters and brochures, social media assistance, branding and more. With funding from the grant, the Center recently filmed a series of video tutorials on Search Engine Optimization (SEO), social media and e-commerce. Most of their clients include local businesses, but they have also helped businesses in Atlanta and Florida. Collier says an essential part of the Center is to help students gain real experience that will help them in future careers.
“The two ‘pillars’ of CODEC’s mission are education and community service,” said Collier. “The Center is here for students who want to build up their resumes and be prepared to enter their industry with real-world experience, while also giving back to the local community.”
Reynolds says the aspect of giving back wasn’t one she had thought about before getting involved, but helping local businesses has become one of the best parts of the job.
Our clients are really grateful for our services, and you can see from their continued success that you’ve made an impact,” said Reynolds. “Our clients keep in touch regularly. When you see one of your online stores make its first sale, or you see a business or organization getting more visits to their site, we know our work is helping the community— we definitely share in their excitement.”
Likewise, Collier says the customers feel working with CODEC gives them an opportunity to give back to the college and to education.
“A lot of times, customers see the investment they make as an investment into the students,” said Collier. “They see it more as a donation to the university and giving back to the students.”
John Granich, founder of Advanced Airspace Management, has worked with Collier and her team for more than a year, unrolling his business’s new website (AAMSPI.com) and logo and figuring out how to market themselves using social media and SEO.
“The website has been up and running for about two months now, and it’s been a great process so far,” said Granich, based out of Eatonton, Georgia. “When you have a team of professionals building a website for you, you realize that the functionality is all there—everything works exactly how it should.”
Granich, along with Chief Pilot Tommy Cook, holds regular meetings with Reynolds and Collier. During theses meetings, they go over any website updates and future needs he might foresee.
“It’s been an amazing process so far,” said Cook. “To be able to rely on a team and sit back and do what we do best and let them do what they do best is reassuring.”
Granich shares Collier’s vision for CODEC being a place where students can learn. In fact, he says he chose Georgia College for that very reason.
“I knew the only way that we would make this work was to wrap it up in the educational process,” said Granich. “I knew if we combined the right people to do the right work, it would be a learning process for everyone.”
Collier says the future of CODEC is multifaceted. One of her primary goals is to ensure that the Center is sustainable by continuing to charge future clients prices for websites and other services that are below industry averages. She also says keeping up with current technological trends is vital to ensure the Center is continuing to offer industry standard resources.
“We have to keep up with the latest technologies,” said Collier. “Technology is unpredictable, and it is changing all of the time. We have to be prepared by integrating apps, logo design, content creation and learning new coding languages. Our hope is that CODEC becomes a one-stop-shop for not only local business owners, but nationwide.”