Students at the University of Wisconsin-Stout recently had a chance to describe what three perfect days might look like to Menomonie tourists as part of a collaboration with the Greater Menomonie Area Chamber of Commerce.
The 25 students were in Sociology of Leisure, a class that explores issues of justice regarding leisure and the sociology of how it plays out in modern society.
“One of the big punchlines in the class is to think about how to make the most of your leisure life so it’s fun for you but also so that it’s better for society,” said Nels Paulson, associate professor of sociology.
For an end-of-year project, students developed 12 Three Perfect Days web pages that each envisioned an enjoyable visit to the Menomonie area. “We had three general categories of leisure that were divided into sports, entertainment and outdoors and then the seasons,” Paulson said.
The pages, thanks in part to another UW-Stout class, were then added to the Explore Menomonie website. Along with activity descriptions, pages include photos, maps and websites and other visitor information about attractions.
“Their visions in these websites were meant to emphasize the fun things to do in Menomonie and the surrounding area that are also good for improving our community,” Paulson said.
If a tourist picked the summer outdoors page, day one could include a visit to a lakeside patio, hiking and exploring the water. During day two, berry picking, incredible views, wine tasting and animals could be in the forecast. On day three the tourists could head out to a picnic and then to the city waterpark.
“Not only are these activities and places fun and enjoyable for any kind of trip, whether it be a family outing or a romantic getaway, they also give back to local businesses and create an appreciation of nature in a safe and sustainable way,” students wrote about the summer outdoor options.
Leah Hauck, who was tourism director at the Chamber and Visitor Center during the project, said the web pages add substance to the tourism page. “It really helps if these are things students like to do in Menomonie,” Hauck said. “If it’s people who live and work here and go to school here, it means more coming from them.”
Hauck graduated from the university in 2012 with a degree in hotel, restaurant and tourism management. She received her master’s degree in technical and professional communication in 2016.
During her time as tourism director, Hauck said she worked with UW-Stout on other projects. “I liked to provide students the opportunities to create real world projects,” she said. “These types of projects were something I benefited from as a student.”
Paulson described the project as a way for students to try to bring together some of the information they learned in class, without being academic about how they were writing it.
“It was a big challenge for them, making it accessible. They couldn’t write about all of the philosophies of justice and all these theories about sociology of leisure, but they had to be informed by those. It became a very good applied exercise,” Paulson said.
The collaboration didn’t end with the Chamber. It continued in the classroom. Paulson admitted he doesn’t have a lot of knowledge about web design, so the sociology class partnered with Associate Professor Robert Fraher, director of the graphic design and interactive media major, and his Introduction to Web Design class.
“About a week before we launched those websites, we sent them to his students and they gave some critical feedback on how to improve them,” Paulson said. “His students improved their learning through teaching, and my students got some really great extra feedback beyond just the feedback from me.”
Fraher agreed and said opportunities to collaborate across campus are so valuable to students. “Learning to work with people with a broad range of backgrounds reflects the expectations commonly found in the industry,” he said.
Top: The Red Cedar River flows south out of Menomonie. In the background is UW-Stout’s Bowman Hall Clock Tower.
Second: A fisherman tries his luck on Lake Menomin in Menomonie. UW-Stout social science students developed ideas for how tourists could spend three perfect days in Menomonie.
Third: Much of Menomonie is built around Lake Menomin. In the foreground are parts of UW-Stout’s campus and downtown.
Bottom: Nels Paulson