Students learn more when they are able to do more.
This concept has been central to McPherson College’s Freedom to Jump entrepreneurship initiative from outset of the program, and now a new student-run organization at the college will help prove the principle.
It’s called “Etch,” and will offer professional graphic design and marketing services to non-profit organizations, asking only that they consider a donation to help cover costs.
“What’s great about Etch is that it gives McPherson College students on-the-job experience before they’ve even graduated,” said Dee Erway-Sherwood, associate professor and program director of graphic design. “This gives them an advantage over students from other colleges. When a potential employer asks them about work experience, they’ll already have several years of working for Etch that they can point to.”
Erway-Sherwood and Dr. Tom Whalen, assistant professor of business, are acting as the faculty advisers for Etch.
Formed in November 2012, the organization now has off-campus office space in downtown McPherson above Elliott Insurance at 207 North Main St. They have also ordered computer equipment and have at least eight non-profit organizations already signed up to use the services of Etch based on word-of- mouth alone. These include the McPherson Humane Society and the McPherson County Council on Aging.
“The need is huge,” Whalen said. “We won’t be hurting for lack of people to help. There’s a pent-up demand out there for this kind of service.”
The initial guidance and financial support for Etch came from McPherson College and the McPherson Chamber of Commerce, who provided a grant for the venture. Representatives of both will be in attendance as Etch celebrates its official ribbon-cutting Thursday.
Whalen said they chose to work for non-profits to help promote an important part of society that often does not have the resources for marketing and graphic design. In addition, he said that with Etch nobody involved wanted to take business away from existing local design firms, and working for non-profits was the best way to do that.
Twelve students have been hired for the organization, including Becca Heeke, sophomore, as business director; Jacee Porter, senior, as art director; and Brittney Shoulders, senior, art director. The students are currently putting in hours of work every week as volunteers, but those involved with Etch will probably end up putting in between two and 10 hours per week, depending on how many clients they are working for. Etch is completely student-run, with all interviews and hiring decisions in the future being made by the students involved.
“I’m really impressed with the maturity level and their work ethic and the leadership that’s being displayed,” Whalen said. “These students are entrepreneurial.”
While they are primarily business, graphic design, and communication majors, Etch is open to all students and is truly an interdisciplinary experience - combining the skills from a variety of liberal arts studies.
“This is truly an entrepreneurial venture,” Dr. Whalen said. “It increases students’ creativity, gives them valuable experience and drives them to think in innovative ways. Entrepreneurs are businesspeople, absolutely, and those students are essential in Etch. But Etch also proves that artists, writers, and, really, students in any major will benefit from developing the entrepreneurial mindset.”
Watch for more information about Etch and the valuable work it accomplishes for non-profit organizations at