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Professor Spotlight: Pauline Mosley

News Story

Seidenberg’s Pauline Mosley, DPS, talks about her very successful teaching initiative that merges website design with non-profit assistance, all with real-world stakes.

Seidenberg Professor Pauline Mosley, DPS, recently received recognition in the Westchester Council Business journal for her and her Seidenberg students’ lasting and effective work with non-profits. This past fall, six teams competed to create website designs that were selected for use by three Westchester-based nonprofits—G.O.O.D. Girls Inc., in Tarrytown, the Family Resource Center in Peekskill, and the Westchester Public/Private Partnership for Aging Services in Mount Vernon.

The longtime partnership has been lauded for its ability to assist non-profits in a cogent manner, as well as the way in which it prepares Seidenberg students for the real world.  

We recently had the opportunity to chat with Professor Mosley to learn more about this impactful program, and the educational philosophy behind it that helps build considerable career and life skills.

“The CIS 102-W Design for Non-Profit Organizations was a course I developed in 2004. The course has evolved over the years to what I currently did last fall. Essentially, the course was designed with a two-fold purpose. One, to teach students how to create websites and what the whole process entails. Also, working with non-profit organizations—students would design and develop a website for non-profit organizations.”

Because Mosley’s course has been around for almost a decade-and-a-half, it has undergone a few changes over the years. Currently, her classes consist of 2530 students. She forms teams of five, and this year, six teams designed websites for the three nonprofit organizations—with two teams being assigned to each respective non-profit.

“The two teams are competing for that community partner’s vote. It’s a competition that works really well. I’ve been doing this style of teaching for the last six-to-seven years. The students have to compete, they have to present. Midway through the semester they do a prototype presentation where they pitch what they’re going to do, and how they envision what the community partners’ online presence should be. The last one, their final, is the development and implementation of the actual website—which they have to present to the community partner at the end. The community partner has to then pick either Team A or Team B, which one captured the essence of their organization the best—through colors, through text, through graphics, through all of the aspects that constitute the development of a webpage.”

Given the real-world stakes of the project, Mosley notes that the assignment brings a particular energy to the classroom, which she thinks would not be possible without the involvement of the community partners.

“The students are not just creating webpages for a hypothetical organization, they’re actually creating the website that is going to be utilized by the non-profit. They have to interact with the community partner; they go to their place of business to get a feel for what that organization is about; they talk to the founder, they talk to the board members and go to events, so they can really understand the essence of the non-profit and how best to project what their mission is, what their function is, and understand who the target population is so they can develop and design the sites as such.”

To add an additional real-world element, Mosley instituted a project management component this semester. She believes that this aspect elevated the excellence of the websites, given that the students were responsible for developing timelines, communicating with the client and team members, and setting the dates and deliverables. In other words, they had to run the assignment in the same way any company would’ve.

Empowering the students to succeed paid major dividends.

“They had to come up with the due dates of when things were done. I held my breath, and it worked out really well. It was a lesson to me, that sometimes we underestimate the potential of our students and what they can do. If we give them more opportunities, it’s amazing what they can do and it affects how they’re learning. It’s a model I’ll definitely repeat in the future.”

Mosley also notes that in addition to the technical skills that are honed and developed during a major assignment such as this one, there’s also a considerable development of the sorts of “soft skills” that employers are often looking for—that many employers say are lacking amongst recent college graduates.

“There’s many things happening in parallel. First, they’re learning HTML—the language they need to construct the actual website. In addition, they’re also learning about how to interact with a community partner in terms of meetings, negotiations, getting the information you need to construct the website. Then there’s the project management side, which concerns the cohesiveness of working as a team, everybody knowing what their task is, what their function is, how their function interacts with everyone.”

Given the clear success of the initiative—Mosley and her students have designed dozens of effective websites and built countless professional relationships—she is quite excited for the next round of students, as they tackle the next batch of websites and develop valuable and transferable skills.

“I enjoy teaching this course every semester because it’s so different. Seeing the students evolve to professionals at the end is really very, very rewarding.”