Don Salyards

A Q&A with Don Salyards

The College of Business Engaged Learning Endowment is one of three university-wide initiatives that are part of The Power of Experience – A Campaign for Winona State. Hear more about the endowment and how it will impact students from WSU Professor of Economics Don Salyards. 

Why is the COB Engaged Learning Endowment Important?

This endowment will give students real world opportunities they would not otherwise have without the endowment’s financial support. It will allow WSU students to put into practice what they learn in the classroom – connect what they learn with the real world. They’ll learn the culture of business, build their resumes, and develop personal and professional connections that they will carry throughout their careers. They will set themselves apart as they begin their careers upon graduation.

Why is an endowment needed to offer these opportunities to students & faculty?

The endowment will provide a resource that students and faculty can count on. It will always be there. We’ll be able to get more students engaged because we can provide more opportunities with the endowment – but you can’t plan anything or plan ahead without knowing you have funding to support it.

What impact have you seen on students who have had these types of opportunities compared to those who don’t?

Students get psyched about having real world opportunities to enhance their learning. They want to connect with and learn from people who have actually worked in the career they aspire to. These types of experiences inspire goal setting and for them to get serious about their futures early in the game – and as a result, we see students who are truly engaged being catapulted into their careers because of these experiences. This endowment supports our Create Your Moreculture – and it’s contagious. The students who are taking advantage of these engaged learning experiences are inspiring other students to do the same.

How will this endowment (or the opportunities it can provide) help WSU students get jobs upon graduation?

It’s all about relationships. If students have opportunities to build relationships while they are students, that will benefit them after graduation. Students are better prepared to know the kind of business they want to work for if they have opportunities to engage with a variety of businesses early on. And on the flip side, if students have the opportunity to demonstrate what they can do and who they are, they are more likely to get hired. It can be difficult to get a job by emailing out blind resumes. When employers need to hire for a position, they need it immediately. They could go through a stack of resumes – but that’s a lot of work. If they already know one of our students through one of these collaborations and that student is already in their mind – they’re going to get the call.

How will these opportunities differentiate WSU COB students?

Well obviously, this endowment will allow students to learn and practice their skills in the real world – before they even get there. They’re going to learn how to think critically and problem solve – and actually apply them. When they walk into their first interview after graduating, they’ll have already started building their resume – that automatically puts them ahead of the game. They’ll be able to sit in that interview and say “I’ve done this.” Does that give them a competitive edge? Heck yeah!

But even going beyond that, this endowment has the potential to build a strong Warrior network. People know that when they go to Harvard, they’ll have a network of alumni who are there for them after graduation. We can have that too, and this endowment can help create that through building relationships and collaborations with alumni and business partners. That’s huge in differentiating the WSU COB, it’s students, and all the alumni and business partners involved.

Why are you supporting this initiative?

I want to support teachers who are doing amazing things – things that will support our students. Great teachers engage students – they care about them as a person, not just a student. This endowment will inspire faculty to go beyond the classroom – to dream more, to do more. It will inspire innovative thinking, which will provide learning opportunities outside of the classroom to connect our students to the real world – opportunities that will benefit our students at an even higher level.

In your opinion, as a WSU Professor, why should others support this initiative?

WSU is a great place to grow up. Our alumni can see themselves sitting in the chairs where current students sit – because they were once in those seats. They remember their own experiences and those who may have helped them succeed. This is an opportunity for those who were once supported to be the supporters – and to make a difference in current students’ lives.           

How else is the COB looking for people to get involved, aside from monetary support?

There are so many ways to get involved. Come in and engage with our students. We love to have our alumni back in the classroom to talk with our students, share their stories and life lessons. Are you interested in being a mentor? Does your business have internship opportunities or a collaborative project they would like WSU students to be a part of? Or would the business you work for like to build relationships with and recruit WSU COB students? The possibilities are endless – that’s the great thing about the creation of this endowment.

How you can get involved


Gifts of any size are important – and make a real impact at WSU. Larger pledges can be paid over 3-5 years, with gifts of $1,000+ recognized on a digital display slated for the College of Business Engagement Center. You could also share your time and talent in the classroom, or partner with faculty to create unique engaged learning experiences for WSU students.


Read more about the project, watch video testimonials about the impact, and stay up-to-date on the College of Business Engaged Learning Endowment campaign at

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Sarah Stockwell

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