(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the last in a six-part series describing one of the projects undertaken this year by a team of MBA students from the University of Tennessee’s Knoxville campus. We are examining the experience from the perspectives of the client, the students, the mentor/teacher, and the University. Today’s story provides the background on the annual spring undertaking that has involved 97 engagements with non-profits in the last decade.)
By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.
For the University of Tennessee’s “P&G” duo, the spring MBA student project for the Girl Scout Council of the Southern Appalachians, Inc. worked just the way it was designed.
“This was particularly spectacular in what we try to achieve,” Pat Richardson said in praising all of the participants.
“Booth (Kammann) did the best at being an active participant in the students’ learning,” he said of the President and Chief Executive Officer of the non-profit client.
“Kevin (Frazier) really dealt well with the client and students,” Richardson added in describing the local businessman turned volunteer teacher/mentor for the first time. “He was totally engaged.”
And, as far as Kendra Wills, student team lead, Glenn Swift described her as a person who embraced the project without “a single bias” in terms of the right set of recommendations.
Both Richardson and Swift cited the pivotal point in the project that Kammann and Wills also described in their respective interviews. The challenge was to add actionable items to the recommendations that were being outlined in a dry run ahead of a formal presentation to the Girl Scout Board of Directors.
“Up until that day, she (Kammann) had become their friend,” Richardson said of the relationship between the client and the five students. “That day, she became the Chief Executive Officer. It was neat seeing that CEO change in her.”
For Richardson and Swift, that pivotal day was one of the real-life learning lessons they hope the students to gain during the compact seven-week process.
Young people need to interact with board members on their business journey, Richardson says, adding, “We want them to experience first-hand how a Board member engages with the organization.”
Describing their overall goal as creating win-win opportunities, Swift adds a philosophical perspective. “Innovation is defined as creating useful change that is sustainable.”
Over the course of conducting four interviews and writing six articles, it was clear to me that all parties found their clear win in an innovative learning experience.