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New FHSU business management director aims to help economy

8/5/2014

By ELIZABETH GOLDEN

By ELIZABETH GOLDEN

egolden@dailynews.net

She has a passion for local business. Sabrina William recently was appointed the new director of the Management Development Center at Fort Hays State University, where she hopes to grow the local economy by improving local businesses.

Through the College of Business and Entrepreneurship, the MDC has been in existence since the early 1980s. Recently, the organization received a grant from the Dane G. Hansen Foundation to fund William's position.

"The MDC has become too successful and active for a person to lead and simultaneously have a significant faculty load," said Mark Bannister, dean of the College of Business and Entrepreneurship, in a statement. "A full-time director was needed to take MDC to a new level of service and activity."

Before the grant, the position was part-time. The two previous directors filled the role in addition to teaching and research responsibilities. William is the first full-time director.

Originally from Hoxie, William attended FHSU for her bachelor's and master's degrees. In her senior year, she started an internship with the Chamber of Commerce. She was hired on full-time. Following, she worked as director of the Downtown Hays Development Corp. for 10 years.

William came to FHSU three years ago to work for a state grant initiative through the state of Kansas to help community colleges and technical colleges update energy programs. She assisted instructors in transitioning face-to-face programs to hybrid formats.

"I was very active in the community and involved in local businesses through that position," William said. "I really missed those aspects. I realized this was an opportunity to get out and work with local business, and that excited me. I wanted to see if I could get back into the community and help local businesses."

In her position, she will hold private and public workshops and arrange consultations. Instructors within the college will work to create marketing plans, lead interactive exercises and help establish successful businesses in the community as well as in northwest Kansas.

"I love to serve people and businesses," she said. "I really wanted to get out and find out what types of needs local businesses have, and help them continue to be successful. A large majority of what this position does is goes out and tries to improve people who work in organizations to help improve the organizations."

The mission is to "improve people and their skills so, in turn, they can improve businesses."

Private workshops will be held at local businesses who request the services of the MDC. Public workshops typically take place on campus, and will be held four times per semester.

"There's a lot of local expertise on campus already teaching," William said. "So, in some ways, we're already doing some types of training, so why shouldn't we access those people who are already very knowledgable to help the local economy as well? I partner with the FHSU instructors to accomplish that."

Businesses will pay for services on a contract-basis. William hopes to increase the client-base to create a self-sustaining organization.

"The intent of the grant from the Hansen foundation was to make the MDC a self-sustaining organization over the next couple years," she said. "My goals are to build up the client-base and reach out to more northwest Kansas businesses."

The grant also dedicates funds to the development of an internship program. Approximately 10 students per semester will be placed in local businesses.

"I'm very excited about the opportunity for this position and all the services the MDC can provide to the community," William said. "I'm excited to be the connector between the business community and the college of business on campus."