Haworth College of Business News

Social responsibility: MBA students learn through service

That distinctive sound of paint rollers gliding across walls, the smell of fresh paint, the camaraderie of a team project and the sense of accomplishing something important through community service—all of these elements and more were part of the recent MBA service learning project that Dr. Tim Palmer, professor of management, incorporated into his MBA strategy capstone course, which focuses on corporate social responsibility embedded throughout the course. Twenty-six students helped to paint The Dream Center, located in downtown Kalamazoo.

The Dream Center

The center is a 501c-3 organization that provides clothing, food and household items to those experiencing homelessness in Kalamazoo. In addition, The Dream Center holds classes on life skills, financial responsibility and other topics.
The students cleaned, refurbished, and painted the interior spaces of the center including the reception area, two restrooms, the multipurpose room, and the clothing and food areas. The center was last painted 14 years ago. The center’s director, Rik Stone, spoke with students about the mission and vision of the nonprofit organization and about community leadership.

The MBA capstone course

Integrating The Dream Center service learning project into the MBA capstone course fits well within the learning objectives of the class and the learning goals of the MBA program. “We want to give students the opportunity to ‘zoom out’ and draw connections between themselves personally, their careers, and their organizations with their local communities and society,” says Palmer. “The event was useful in showing how community engagement helps build teamwork and leadership skills. These also are powerful tools in building an organization's culture and can integrate individuals in different parts of an organization. The goal is for students to take this lesson with them and put it into practice by being an advocate for social responsibility and community service and engagement within their companies and communities. We can accomplish so much when we work as a group.”
And this was truly a group effort— Haworth College of Business employees helped by sponsoring a gallon or multiple gallons of paint. WMU’s Facility Services secured brushes, rollers, drop cloths and pails. And another nonprofit organization catered dinner for the hard-working painters.

In the student’s words

“Dr. Palmer teaches us a lot about both sustainability and corporate social responsibility. I like that we are getting to put that into practice here. It is a great opportunity, and it is fun and engaging. One of the things that we have been learning about is that businesses can do a lot for community organizations. Individuals can only do so much. It is up to us as business leaders to get our companies involved and for organizations to build social responsibility into company culture.” – Erik Chmelar
“This project makes everything that we talk about in class every day real.” – Jessica Smith
“Business is not all about profits. Business is also about community. Resources are limited for nonprofits, and I am happy to contribute to the community.” – Jogia Gondo
“This has been an amazing experience. This is a great perspective to take into our careers and companies which sponsor programs and where we can be of service.” – Dominique Hardiman
“This is a very special experience for me. This is my first time painting. I am from Taiwan, and this is unique. I enjoy doing this for the community.” – Alan Liang
"At my job I'm seeing a transition back to focusing more on the community. It's vital for a business to build people back into their strategy. The success of a business and the success of the community are tied together." –Brenton Riegel

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