An expanded vision
Published: March 30, 2021 / Author: Carol Elliott
Business on the Frontlines launched in 2008 at the Mendoza College of Business as a Notre Dame MBA course. The course, founded by management professor Viva O. Bartkus, is rooted in the belief that there is dignity in work and all people can be empowered to contribute to society.
During the past 12 years, BOTFL teams have worked on more than 60 projects in 25-plus countries, utilizing the dynamic skills of business to address issues including post-conflict rehabilitation, poverty, illicit economies, isolation and prejudice.
In 2020, thanks to philanthropy including a $15 million gift from Ken and Susan Meyer, the course expanded to become the Meyer Business on the Frontlines Program with several significant developments:
- Bartkus was named as the Meyer Business on the Frontlines Program faculty director and the team increased to include Joe Sweeney (MBA ’12, ND ‘06), assistant teaching professor of Management & Organization, and Kelly Rubey (MBA ’16), assistant teaching professor of Management & Organization. Both are Business on the Frontlines alums.
- The Business on the Frontlines course was increased from one section to two, allowing the program to increase the number of partner organizations and expanding capacity for MBA students, along with welcoming back students from the Master of Global Affairs program and the Notre Dame Law School.
- Frontlines in America, a four-credit-hour domestic focused course (one mod and an interterm), launched in fall 2020. FIA students work with partners on projects in the U.S. focusing on similar core themes to the BOTFL course while also examining unique barriers to work found here at home.
- A two-credit hour, internationally focused course, Frontline Engagements, will launch in the 2021-2022 academic year if travel resumes. The course continues the work of BOTFL teams around the Caribbean basin, extending partnerships and building on the work of previous teams serving in Central America, northern South America, and island nations in the Caribbean. Students will spend the interterm week in the field, with additional classroom sessions on campus both before and after.
- A two-credit hour, locally focused course, Ways of Rebuilding Community (WORC), will launch in the 2021-2022 academic year. The course brings the same core themes and partner engagement home to our local community by serving organizations within a short driving distance of campus., offering students the opportunity to engage in service with local communities on a weekly basis.
Business on the Frontlines is often described as a “journey of discovery” for the students. In addition to gaining practical and extensive real-world experience in problem-solving and consulting, they encounter people, places and circumstances that often change their life perspectives. In fact, a stated objective of the course is for students to gain a visceral sense that the imagination and creation of common ground — finding solutions to arrive at a common goal among parties with divergent ideologies — is both possible and worthy of the effort.