Chrystal Houston, November 30th, 2009
There’s more to business than balance sheets and the bottom line. That’s what sophomores at Mays Business School at Texas A&M University are learning in their Integrated Worklife Competencies class, where a large part of the grade depends on a team project that contributes at least $1,000 (or 100 hours of volunteer labor) to a local non-profit organization.
The more than 600 students involved in this class will present their projects at a service fair this Tuesday and Wednesday, December 1 and 2. Representatives from the agencies the students worked with will also be present. The fairs will be held in the lobby of the Wehner Building on the A&M campus from 5:30 to 9 p.m., with a break from 7-7:30.
“Our teams are charged with creating $1,000-worth of value for their chosen agency,” says Nancy Simpson, clinical professor and director of the Undergraduate Special Programs Office at Mays. “For the purpose of the project, we value their time at $10/hour; however we emphasize that they create value by identifying and meeting need, not simply by putting in hours. The project also serves as a vehicle for learning about teams, business communication, and ethical decision making.”
The students chose their own projects, partnering with community organizations such as the Brazos Valley Children’s Museum, The Down Syndrome Association, Scotty’s House, Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, and the Texas Ramp Project, to fulfill a specific need within that organization.
One team, Aggies Contributing Dollars for Cans (ACDC), turned a common student dilemma into an opportunity for the Brazos Food Bank through their service project. At the end of the semester, students frequently have unused “dining dollars” remaining in their pre-purchased meal plans. They can only carry over $100 of that money to the next semester, forcing them to lose the money or spend it on non-essential items such as junk food at Rattlers, the campus convenience store that accepts the meal-plan money but offers a very limited selection of products. Team ACDC worked with campus dining services to create a third option for students: they can now donate their unused money to feed the hungry in the Brazos Valley. This is the first semester that this option has been available, so the group is unsure of how much money will be raised through the effort, though they expect it will be substantial, says team rep Aaron Ebers ’12. Though the class only requires students to participate in their service project for one semester, Ebers says if their campaign is as successful as they expect, they will turn the class project into a student organization on the A&M campus and encourage students to continue giving each semester.
Team Ranch Hands spend their volunteer hours mentoring and tutoring the children at Still Creek Ranch in Bryan, Texas. The ranch provides a home and schooling for disadvantaged children, and is supported entirely by private donations. In addition to their mentoring activities, the A&M students assisted in the ranch’s annual fundraising dinner and silent auction. Team representative Kelly Bryan ’12 said that the experience, while personally touching, was very instructional, as team members learned how to interact professionally with a non-profit organization.
These projects and more than 80 others will be judged during the two-day service fair by a panel of faculty and staff members. Winning groups will win scholarship money for group members based on the success of their projects and presentations.
For more information about the students’ projects or the service fair, please contact Simpson at (979) 845-4140 or firstname.lastname@example.org.