MANKATO — Stephanie Erlandson isn’t quite sure what career path she will choose, but with a media arts and English background from Bethany Lutheran College, she’s considering working to help nonprofits with promotion.
Thanks to a business that she and other students got off the ground more than a year ago, she’ll have plenty of experience going in.
In August 2011, with the help of a start-up grant from Antioch Foundation, students began a company called Stone Path, which helps nonprofits and small groups with various media needs, such as shooting and producing videos.
The idea was to offer these services inexpensively to help the groups out, but also to provide a hands-on, real-world media arts and business experience to the students.
“Stone Path has been very beneficial to my education,” said Erlandson, executive director. “It took off in a whole other speed than perhaps was anticipated in the beginning.”
The students started the company with the goal of completing 12 projects last year, but ended up completing 30.
They worked with groups large and small, from the Madelia hospital to Greater Mankato Growth to area churches.
Dean of Academic Affairs Eric Woller, who oversees much of Stone Path's operation, said the business has put good use to Bethany’s renowned media studio. Woller said the college has been well-equipped with cameras, high-tech equipment and studio space for years to do these kinds of media projects. And as such, many requests were coming in for help.
“The problem was that it was not really well organized,” Woller said. “So a couple of years ago, the idea was, ‘Let’s take all of these requests and put them under the umbrella of a student-run group with faculty mentoring.”
One example of a project Erlandson pointed to as being a good experience on all sides was the taping of the Greater Mankato Growth annual awards ceremony. The students taped interviews with awards recipients, and Erlandson said it was a great way for her to get to know the Mankato community a little better.
For Madelia’s hospital, students did a breast cancer awareness video for a fundraiser. With Ridley Inc., the students assisted in a media training day.
“We’ve done a huge variety of projects, and I think that’s one of the biggest blessings of Stone Path is getting an opportunity to work on such a large variety,” Erlandson said.
The students each are in charge of different areas of production, including business, client relations, editing and production.
“They have been very organized,” Woller said. “One thing that really surprised us was the number of requests that have come in. ... Spring semester is already booked full.”
Stone Path is not a class. Students get paid for their work.
“These are real projects,” Woller said. “(They have to) present something to a client that they may or may not like.”
Woller said the nonprofits and groups are charged a small fee, but the goal is not to compete with or undercut other companies in the area that offer such services.
“We want to help the organizations that can’t afford it,” he said.