Usually, MBA fall orientation at a b-school is dedicated to a host of housekeeping duties – a building tour, talks on career development and getting to know classmates. But the schedule was different for the incoming MBA class of 2011 at the University of Notre Dame. Almost as soon as they settled into the Mendoza College of Business, the students were sent outside into the community to be introduced to a central tenet of the MBA and University mission – the idea of service.
“When we redesigned orientation, the plan was for each day to address one of five MBA values,” said Patrick Perrella, director of MBA Career Development. The values are community and responsibility, integrity, leadership, excellence and spirituality.
“We wanted the MBAs to be part of the Notre Dame family upfront, and to set the stage for them to think of community service as part of their roles as students and later as alumni,” Perrella added.
The orientation took place from Aug. 10-14, with the second day dubbed “Community and Responsibility Day.” Students heard a presentation on the power of community by Kathy Sullivan, senior director of Spirituality and Service of Notre Dame’s Alumni Association, and Bill Purcell, associate director for Catholic Social Tradition and Practices at the Center for Social Concerns. Another speaker was associate professional specialist James O’Brien, who gave a talk on business principles applied to nonprofits.
Then the class of 137 students divided into three groups and headed out for an afternoon of helping others at three local service organizations. One group went to Logan Industries, which has a manufacturing facility that provides jobs for physically and developmentally disabled individuals. The students helped workers on assembly-line projects, packaging cat treats and assembling Pinewood Derby cars kits and socket wrench sets.
A second group sent to South Bend’s Center for the Homeless, where they sorted donations such as canned goods, clothing and blankets, after taking a tour of the facility. “It was something to walk through the center and to see how they help pick up people and put them back on their feet. A resident who is a veteran gave us a talk, telling us his story. It was very uplifting,” said MBA candidate Will Harrison.
The third group went to Corvilla Inc., which provides residences and services for adults with developmental disabilities. The MBA students washed and detailed six large-capacity handicapped-access vans used to transport the residents. The residents welcomed the students with a picnic, sponsored by Chic-Fil-A.
Some of the Corvilla residents aren’t able to speak or feed themselves. “One man couldn’t eat by himself, so I started feeding him. He was so fond of the attention, he kept eating and eating,” said student Jennifer De Arana.
As a result of the experience, De Arana made a commitment to come back and devote more time volunteering at Corvilla. “We never think we have an hour or two (to do service work), but I can take a 15-minute walk over there when I have some free time,” she said.
Seeing the residents enjoy their interaction with the students “made me feel blessed,” De Arana said.