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September 04, 2014 | Tom Ballard

PART 3: Frazier describes the project as “a life-giving experience”

UT-tekno(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third 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 focuses on Kevin Frazier’s experience as a mentor/teacher.)

By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.

“It was really a life-giving experience for me,” Kevin Frazier said in describing his work as a volunteer teacher and mentor for a team of MBA students from the University of Tennessee (UT) who worked during Spring Semester on a project for the Girl Scouts Council of the Southern Appalachians.

The owner of Frazier’s Carpet One in Knoxville says he comes to teaching naturally. He’s the father of three daughters, which is clearly a teaching and mentoring role, and he has been a long-time Sunday School teacher.

“I love to teach; it’s the closest to a hobby I have,” Frazier says, noting, “My wife’s father was Otis Stephens,” the long-time and well-respected UT faculty member.

The UT business graduate says he met Pat Richardson and Glenn Swift, the duo behind the MBA team initiative, last fall during a networking event and was asked a little bit later to accept the mentor/teaching role.

“I decided to give it a turn and see if it was a good fit,” Frazier said.

Now, after the inaugural year, he describes the experience succinctly in one word, “Wow,” then quickly adds, “I was really impressed with the B school – administrative staff, faculty and the quality of the students.”

Admitting that it was somewhat challenging, given his competing work and family schedules, Frazier says unabashedly, “I would do it again if asked.”

So, what did he do?

They worked on a real-life project for a non-profit client. In their case, it was the Girl Scouts who wanted to develop a strategy to recruit more volunteers who are not mothers.

For seven weeks, Frazier worked with a five-member student team led by Kendra Wills. He used the term “intense” to describe the interaction that he estimates took about six hours a week.

Frazier explained that he, Richardson and the students met weekly with their client – Booth Kammann, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Girl Scouts. During the week, the students did research and benchmarking and applied critical thinking to the problem and possible solutions.

As he described the experience, it brought back vivid memories of parenting – a combination of coaching, nudging and “tough love.”

Frazier says his role ranged from focusing on things some might consider minor – stand-up when you present to a client – to more substantive ones – “I don’t know how to solve is not an answer.”

He says he reminded them to take the project seriously, be professional in your approach, and understand that “these are real people with real problems.”

Like the role of a father, Frazier also provided encouragement when needed. “I would pat them on the shoulder and say you did a good job,” he explained.

The volunteer teacher and mentor says he saw real growth in the team over the short seven weeks.

“The class itself is a good class,” Frazier says. “What Pat and Glenn are doing is having a real impact.”

NEXT: The project through the eyes of Kendra Wills.

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