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The Lancaster Project, an integrated cluster initiative that uses a multidisciplinary approach, focuses on bringing more life to the small business community on Main Street, particularly the historical Lancaster National Bank building, in Lancaster, New Hampshire. The project capitalizes on the varied knowledge of 60 students from 10 different academic majors. Collaborative groups work on seven client-based teams, primarily addressing cohesive, effective branding schemes for local businesses, events, and the town of Lancaster itself. Teams also devise strategies and comprehensive plans to attract a younger demographic to New Hampshire’s North Country, where the aging workforce has caused economic strain on the area in recent years.
Leading the initiative is PSU business professor Roy Stever, along with fellow faculty member Pamela Anneser, Eric Spieth of the Plymouth Enterprise Center, and Lancaster business leaders Peter Powell of Peter W. Powell Real Estate and Greg Cloutier of Lancaster Main Street Buildings. Over the course of 16 weeks, students not only work on the project from the classroom, but also visit the town of Lancaster. The initiative provides students with experiences that enhance their overall education, and offer the fresh perspectives and innovation of PSU faculty and students to the Lancaster community.
“The Lancaster Initiative is a great expression of collaborative, applied learning in action,” says Stever. “The aging workforce is a statewide issue, but is particularly acute in the North Country. Through the three areas of this project, PSU students will explore ways in which Lancaster can attract young professionals to live and work there. What better way to engage students in the North Country than by addressing this issue?”
As students and faculty apply the material learned in class to a real-life setting, they create positive connections between Plymouth State and the surrounding communities. Through its collaborative nature, the project also provides the opportunity for students to foster important professional relationships with Lancaster locals, faculty, and other students across academic disciplines.
“It is exciting to see Plymouth State implementing the integrated cluster model, and that it is reaching into the North Country,” says Cathy Conway, vice president, economic development, Northern Community Investment Corporation (NCIC) and Board of Trustee member, University System of New Hampshire. “Lancaster is located at the intersection of major north-south and east-west routes, it is the county seat, and has many positive assets, including a fabulous downtown area, but it needs to be a place where young people and small businesses can thrive. The PSU Lancaster initiative will engage students with community partners to address challenges and create sustainable solutions—it is a unique opportunity with great potential.” ■ Kendal Lariviere ’17
For a look inside one of the seven collaborative teams of the Lancaster Project, watch the initiative efforts in progress: https://vimeo.com/reproian/rizfit. On the featured team, students work with a local fitness entrepreneur to enrich his business and increase his customer outreach to help him achieve his goal of making fitness accessible to everyone.