Students take part in Revitalize Fresno Project

Stephen Keleher / The Collegian

While the vast majority of collegiate courses offered involve students taking notes at a desk, one course every spring in the Craig School of Business is geared toward getting its students real-world experience.

“Most classes are done in a classroom. You don’t really go out and do anything,” said Brianna Mercereau, a senior in the entrepreneurship program. “This class is out in the field. You actually get to go and talk to people who’ve actually done it. You don’t meet in a classroom.”

Urban entrepreneurship is taught by Craig Scharton, director of Downtown Revitalization for the City of Fresno. This semester, he’s given just over 20 class members the job of planning, coordinating and executing this weekend’s Downtown Lofts Open House, which will take place both Saturday and Sunday afternoon. It will take place at five locations: Van Ness Cottages, Iron Bird Lofts, Fulton Village, Mayflower Lofts and the Pacific Southwest Building.

“Professor Scharton wanted to get younger people downtown, aside from the Tower District, to see the true beauty down there that most people don’t see,” Mercereau said.  “He’s been able to show us so many different sites, locations, different things that you wouldn’t normally know.”

In addition to the Saturday and Sunday afternoon open houses at the five loft locations, there will be an after-event party at the old Pacific Southwest Building, which is located right on Fulton Mall just on the other side of Club One. The party will start at 6.

“There’ll be live art demonstrations and music and high up lofts that you can look out of and see the whole city at night. That’s going to be pretty unique,” Elliott Balch, Downtown Revitalization Manager for the city, said.

Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin supports efforts to revitalize downtown Fresno. This weekend’s Open House is an example of the coordination between the City of Fresno, Fresno State entrepreneurship majors and the developers and property managers all dedicated to the revitalization of  a currently under-populated area of Fresno.

A little more than half of the students in this semester’s urban entrepreneurship class were assigned to the Open House event and then split into groups. The marketing group planned the advertising and the media and had flyers and posters printed and distributed. It used social media like Facebook, Twitter and Mindhub, an online site for creative professionals in the Central Valley.

A second group was assigned to act as liaison between the marketing group and the property managers and developers, helping to make sure the event runs smoothly. It also helped to ensure the public visiting the lofts downtown have the best possible experience.

“Another student group consults with businesses around the loft areas to see if they’ll give discounts, like Iron Bird Café,” said Mercereau, who is co-CEO for the Open House Project.

The urban entrepreneurship class has influenced at least one of the classmate’s goals after graduation. Senior Natasha Mendoza, who is part of the liaison team for this weekend’s Downtown Loft Open House, is taking the hands-on experience she has gained in the class and intends to use it locally in the real world.

“It made me want to stay here after I graduate and see if I can start my own business downtown,” Mendoza said. “I just want to get out there to see what there is, to get to know the people and see if I can get something going once I graduate.”

Mercereau agrees with Mendoza and said the class teaches what works and what doesn’t.

“You’re learning when you can still catch yourself and it’s not in the real world, where it could be the cost of a job,” said Mercereau. “It’s a stepping stone. It is one of the most unique classes I’ve ever taken.”

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