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Business students research, present solutions to community childcare needs at annual Civic Recharge competition

Liberty students competed in three teams at the 2023 Civic Recharge Innovation Challenge hosted by the School of Business. (Photos by Chase Reed)

The Liberty University School of Business intentionally gives students opportunities to apply classwork to real-life situations. Earlier this month, three teams of students competed in the school’s Civic Recharge Innovation Challenge, an annual program that connects students with current needs in the local community.

This year’s topic was childcare, and students worked with Bedford County officials to identify residents’ needs before presenting their solutions to a panel of judges on April 11 for a chance at cash prizes.

“An individual’s ability to work depends many times on their childcare,” said Dr. Roger Bingham, residential chair for general business. “If they don’t have reliable childcare, they can’t be at work, or if they’re at work and their child gets sick, they have to leave work. It’s such a great need from both from taking care of the children and the families, but also from an economic standpoint as well.”

Event judge and director of economic development for Bedford County Pam Bailey stressed the financial issues related to childcare that often plague parents in the workforce. Citing from her personal experience, she explained that she hired a non-licensed home provider when her children were young because she could not afford day care.

“By the time I paid for two kids in day care and going to work, I should have just stayed home if I was going to take them to a day care center. It’s very expensive,” Bailey said.

Bailey also pointed out that while Bedford County does have some day care facilities on the east side of the county, she hopes the county will provide for other areas who do not currently have these facilities and for families who cannot even afford the current facilities.

Freshman Anna Grawunder said that her team found a study indicating that some single mothers spend up to 35% of their income on paying for childcare. The group spoke on incentivizing childcare at workplaces such as businesses and hospitals through tax breaks and other means. The group also argued for more before- and after-school care at public schools to make it more convenient for parents.

Dr. Roger Bingham addressed attendees at the event.

“It’s a really good opportunity and it was good to hear the solutions that other people came up with too,” Grawunder said. “To see the creativity and the approaches of other people who focused on different aspects of it, I think I learned a lot from that.”

Junior Bryce Isler presented on the topics of generating money for childcare facilities and incentivizing childcare providers to work in the new facilities.

“Overall, it was a really great project, and it was overall a really great experience,” he said. “I would recommend this project for anyone who is getting into business with a passion for solving problems and really being able to exercise problem solving.”

Several of the judges emphasized the positive impact that students have on the betterment of the local community.

“I’m very impressed with Liberty students, their poise,” Bailey said. “You’ve got total strangers coming together and judging you. They handled the questions like pros, very good at their presentations, and I’m looking forward to what’s to come as we grow this program.”

Holley Scheffel, business programs coordinator for the Bedford Office of Economic Development and one of the event judges, said as a former high school teacher, she was impressed with the presentations.

“Being able to see where kids would have left off with me in junior or senior English class, to what they can produce in their first and second year of college, just to see that leap, that transition is fantastic,” said Scheffel. “All of the students that presented did a dynamite job and I was blown away that the two young ladies (Anna Schrader and Leah Breach) that took first place were freshmen. That presentation looked like something a fourth year would have done.”

Bingham said the competition, now in its second year, addresses a new problem each year; last year focused on transportation. The topic is given to students in the Spring , with each group having about three weeks to prepare for competition. Bingham stated that he aims to provide students with more time to better enable them to conduct research on the topic.

“In the classroom we do as much as we can to bring real-life experiences to students, but most of the time it’s not as real as actually having them work through a problem,” he said. “This was an opportunity for students to get that real-world experience that they need to be more productive in the workforce.”

Dr. Laura Hatfield’s Special Event Management class hosted the event, providing dinner and decorations.

This year, the top team received $500, second place $400, and third place $300.

To help facilitate the event, Bingham partnered with Dr. Laura Hatfield, residential chair for hospitality and sport management, and her class EMGT 320: Special Events Management. The class hosted the event, providing dinner and decorations for the student presenters and judges.

Hatfield said the event challenges her students to meet the needs of a specific client.

“They have the opportunity to create their own event, but they’re making their own decisions, their own choices, their own things that they like,” Hatfield said. “It’s really a unique opportunity for students in a very supportive environment to be able to work with a client. They defend some of their ideas and they have to dialogue with him. It’s been a very positive, meaningful learning experience.”

This competition is open to any Liberty residential undergraduate student, regardless of major. Students interested in participating in the 2024 Civic Recharge Innovation Challenge competition can reach Bingham at rbbingham@liberty.edu.

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