Omaha, Nebraska – Graduate assistants play an active role in enabling the Nebraska Business Development Center (NBDC) to deliver a wide array of programs to small businesses across the state, while the students obtain real-world experience.
“NBDC offers graduate students opportunities that are unique due to our involvement in the community and our work with small businesses,” says NBDC Associate State Director Aretha Boex. “At the same time, the small businesses they serve gain fresh ideas and insight from the graduate assistants’ perspective, and NBDC is able to serve a wider number of clients in fulfilling its statewide mission. It’s a win-win-win situation.”
Beyond the classroom, the NBDC Graduate Assistant (GA) program affords opportunities for engagement with small businesses and experiencing the challenges they face on a regular basis.
“Our GAs either work directly with business clients, assisting them in various ways, or perform administrative tasks that support the professional consultants working with clients,” says Jerry Parriott, NBDC business manager. “They are part of a robust program that helps support and build Nebraska’s economy.”
NBDC routinely employs from nine to 11 GAs each academic year, depending on program needs and funding, with most of them also working through the summer. They are hired in a staggered fashion as they do not all graduate at the same time.
The NBDC program includes GAs at UNO and at NBDC centers at Chadron State College and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Depending on when they start, they work for NBDC from one to three years, until they receive their graduate degree, Parriott says.
The opportunities don’t always end with graduation. “We’ve had a number of GAs graduate and then apply for full-time positions at NBDC,” he says. “In the past 12 years, we’ve hired a total of nine former GAs. Of those, seven are still full-time employees.”
The GAs participate in several NBDC programs, including the Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC), which offers consulting, workshops and networking events at no cost to Nebraska businesses positioning their companies to bid, win and fulfill federal, state and local government contracts.
Tony Schultz, Omaha Center Director for the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) program, leads a team of UNO College of Business Administration GAs assisting business owners who, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, contact NBDC by phone or through the center’s website.
NBDC GAs also serve the center’s Innovation & Technology program and the Federal and State Technology (FAST) Partnership program.“Currently, our three GAs are industrial/organizational psychology students,” says Josh Nichol-Caddy, NBDC's Technology Commercialization Director. “One is currently conducting an assessment of our program to identify opportunities and redundancies, so we can better serve our partner organizations. “The other two are working in the FAST program, applying their training to clients who want to learn more about the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant program, and finding ways to help inventors who have cool ideas but lack a clear path toward commercializing them,” he says. “We want to help them identify either the next steps forward, or whether they need to take a step back and conduct more research.”
Nichol-Caddy says the GA program is a valuable resource for NBDC clients. “The GAs combine an academic background often with considerable work experience and offer a different perspective,” he says. “They not only ask great questions, but they also pose the hard questions because their goal is to learn from the process.”
Any graduate student interested in being a GA with NBDC should access the UNO job board Handshake to watch for openings.
The Nebraska Business Development Center (NBDC) helps Nebraska businesses start, grow and develop, by strengthening Nebraska businesses for a healthy economy and prosperous communities. NBDC is a University of Nebraska at Omaha center that provides confidential consulting business development services across Nebraska to entrepreneurs and business owners for the life cycle of their business. NBDC partners with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Nebraska at Kearney, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Wayne State College, and Chadron State College to deliver its services statewide. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), the U.S. Department of Commerce (EDA), and other federal, state and private organizations support NBDC. Visit nbdc.unomaha.edu for more information.
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