Mendoza School of Business

In five trades: Start with chopsticks, end up in Martha’s Vineyard?

Published: May 4, 2015 / Author: Carol Elliott

The students in Rev. Eric Zimmer’s Executive MBA Negotiation class were given a simple assignment: Start with a pair of cheap ornamental chopsticks, and see what you can get for them in five trades.

Zimmer, S.J., an associate adjunct professor of management at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, organized the students into teams and made the exercise a competition. So how did they do? Here’s a short list of what they traded up for:

·        A four-night stay at Hacienda Encantada, Los Cabos Resort (value: $2,800)

·        Autographed football by Giants first-round 2013 draft pick Justin Pugh

·        Martha’s Vineyard one-week house rental (value: $6,000)

·        Google Nexus 9 tablet (value: $400)

·        Louis Vuitton Purse in mint condition (value: $1,500)

·        “The Pointer 1939” Disney print

·        Vera Bradley laptop travel tote

·        Glitter Princess Galore tutu and headband

·        Mexican pottery  (value: $600)

The list goes on. And on. The class ended up with more than a hundred items worth thousands of dollars, which led to another valuable learning experience: the opportunity to give back by auctioning off the collected items to benefit expectant mothers in Uganda.

“Team 9”— classmates Steve Carollo, Maria Bailey, Dustyn Arney, Ryan Cushing, Stephen Smith and Pat Meyer – decided to use the exercise to raise money to support The Village Ambulance, a custom-built trailer designed specifically to meet the medical transportation needs of rural communities around the world.

The team is auctioning the items collected through Facebook on May 5. Bids open at 7 p.m. ET and close at 10 p.m. on the Facebook page: Interested bidders can follow the action on Twitter at #5tradesaway all day on May 5 they preview the items and later when they open bids.

Specifically, Team 9 is working with Pulse, the company that makes the ambulance trailers (known as “Zambulances”), to help provide transportation to expectant mothers in Uganda for medical care.  It’s estimated more than 800 women globally die every day due to complications in pregnancy and childbirth, many in rural villages in places including Uganda.

Maria Bailey said they expanded their fundraising efforts by sending chopsticks to more than 50 family members and friends, and asking them to take the “five-trade” challenge. She set up the Facebook page and a website describing the cause: Five Trades Away: Turning Chopsticks into Transportation for Expect Mothers.

The team also will be traveling to Uganda in June to work with the project first-hand as part of the Notre Dame EMBA International Immersion. “Many of us, if not all of us, chose the University of Notre Dame because of the shared values we have with the institution,” said Bailey. “When the opportunity to choose our international immersion, we wanted to bring that alive in our work. 

“Then when Father Zimmer’s chopstick assignment came up, we saw it as an opportunity to support the social good that Pulse represents,” Bailey continued. “So in some ways, it was the convergence of two Notre Dame assignments and focusing them on doing social good. 

“We believe that’s an aspect of an MBA program that you cannot get anywhere else and a lesson that is only taught at Notre Dame—taking your business talents and using them to do social good.” 

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