Published on April 18, 2018
In 2008, the MU Office of Service-Learning established a relationship with the Trulaske College of Business to support students as they advance towards their careers. Business students complete a robust career readiness program that includes both in-classroom and out-of-classroom experiences. Business Administration courses, the in-classroom component, develops professional competencies. A partnership with the Office of Service-Learning opened new opportunities for applied learning beyond the classroom.
Within the curriculum, students take Business Administration (BA) 2500 and learn through field experience. Students are paired with non-profit organizations to fulfill this requirement, giving them a chance to learn while serving their community. This provides students a look at another side of business, a side they may not have previously considered.
“Our main purpose is to give students an opportunity to practice working in an organization, and gain skill sets that we know they will need for their careers,” says Trulaske’s Director of International Relations and Assistant Teaching Professor Gay Albright.
Students progress through this professional development experience before obtaining an internship, which is required for all students in the College of Business. Not only does this help build their résumés, but it also provides students with talking points when interviewing for an internship or job.
Previously, the service-learning component of the program came in the students’ junior year, which was after some students completed an internship. “We wanted to give them the experience earlier,” Albright says. For that reason, the new curriculum moved the service opportunity to students’ sophomore year.
The course, BA 2500, provides students the ability to apply soft skills–such as teamwork, decision making, effective communication, self-awareness and self-control–within a real-world setting with non-profit organizations. While the need to focus on hard skills–accounting, finance, and marketing–remains, soft skills help further students’ professional development.
The College of Business believes key soft skills, which are referred to as the 15 competencies within the college, are important for students to learn in order to be successful in their careers.
“It’s been a really good fit for our students,” says BA 2500 instructor Tim Hill. “No matter what it is, they’re finding ways to serve and give back in a way that they can draw on and then reflect on their experiences.”
When students learn about the requirement of a minimum of 15 hours of service throughout the semester, there is usually a mix of reactions. However, students often find that what happens in non-profit organization also applies in a for-profit business.
“The more I thought about it, the more I thought that this would be much more effective than just sitting in a classroom and learning about collaboration or effective problem-solving because you have to experience it,” says sophomore Yasmeen Taranissi, who has completed the course. “After more thought, I was appreciative of the fact that the College of Business thought of something that was more creative and practical.”
Throughout their service experience, students from the College of Business find help from MU Office of Service-Learning.
“(Director of the Office of Service-Learning) Dr. (Anne-Marie) Foley and the rest of the Office of Service-Learning were so energetic and really cared about making sure we fit with the organization that we joined,” says BA 2500 student Amanda Steineman. “They really encourage you to find the right fit and if you have any problems, they are easily reachable.”
Before Steineman began the course, she was unsure which career path she wanted to pursue. She now believes that BA 2500 has provided her with insight into new possibilities for her future and is now considering a career in the non-profit world, specifically working with animals.
“I like the idea of being a manager of an animal shelter because I really love animals and it’s meaningful to me,” Steineman says. “But I don’t think I would have thought about working for a non-profit without them encouraging us to work for a non-profit.”
Whether it is the for-profit or non-profit sector, the College of Business hopes that this program provides students with more options for their future careers.
“It opens up students’ eyes to opportunities that do exist out there beyond going into corporate America,” Hill says. “It helps students recognize the idea that we can and should choose opportunities that line up with our skills, what we’re passionate about, and what we care about.”