MBA Students Making a Difference through Pro Bono Consulting
Georgia Tech MBA students are making a difference for local nonprofit organizations through pro bono consulting.
For one Atlanta nonprofit, pro bono consulting services from Georgia Tech MBA students came at a critical time. The Sullivan Center, which helps people at risk of poverty and homelessness remain self-sufficient, was developing its five-year strategic plan for how to better serve the Atlanta community.
"The students brought a high level of clarity to the process as well as specific information to prepare us for changes in the nonprofit landscape," says Terry Tucker, executive director of the 25-year-old Sullivan Center. "One of the biggest changes is that we have to be more accountable for our actual impacts and measurements of success. Nonprofits are being judged like any corporation now, and we have to keep people up to date on how their money is working."
The Graduate Pro Bono Consulting Program was created at the business school by Georgia Tech's Institute for Leadership and Entrepreneurship (ILE) in 2008. Involving a semester-long consulting project, the program is open to MBA and other graduate and PhD students at Tech. Participating students earn independent study credit as they help Atlanta-based nonprofits resolve key strategic challenges.
Organizational behavior professor Terry Blum, who supervises the Pro Bono program as executive director of ILE, says that students gain valuable consulting experience while making a difference in the community. "They have valuable knowledge and skills that they can apply to provide alternative futures for organizations that do good," she says.
In addition to the Sullivan Center, other organizations that have benefited from the program include the American Cancer Society, MedShare International, and the Art of Living. Students work on teams of five or six to help these organizations, regularly meeting with their leadership and staff and making presentations of recommendations.
MBA student Mariam Jeroudi has been highly involved with the Pro Bono program, first as a student in spring 2009 and now as an organizer for the 2009-10 year. Planning a career in health care administration, she has a strong interest in continuing to work with nonprofit organizations after graduation.
"The program has been a great way to give students the opportunity to help the local community," Jeroudi says. "Sometimes it takes so little to make a huge difference."
The Sullivan Center is already reaping the benefits of the market study Jeroudi's team provided in spring 2009. The study is helping the organization expand its services to identify and help youth who might have difficulty finding employment.
"The students helped us determine whom we needed to talk to, things to take under consideration, and how to best roll out the plan," says center director Tucker.
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