This summer a mix of more than 30 graduate and undergraduate students at the Lundquist College of Business partnered with several nonprofits, governmental agencies, and social enterprises in Eugene, Lane County, and Portland.
Working as consultants, their objective was to address and overcome challenges faced by each organization related to equity and inclusion, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic.
These unique experiential learning opportunities were provided through a course called “Resilient Leadership for Social Impact,” taught for the first time by Lundquist College instructor and director of the business honors program Eric Boggs.
Conducted entirely via Zoom, the class examined resiliency on three scales. The first looked at how establishments respond to change. The second considered how teams can remain resilient. The last addressed personal resilience and leadership development.
Boggs said that students dove in and were excited to get real-world experience and grapple with some of the challenges faced by these organizations.
“Resilient Leadership was a transformative experience for me this summer, allowing me to gain real-world consulting experience while learning incredibly relevant insights during a turbulent year," said Ethan Miller ’21, who is majoring in business administration and political science.
Each team included up to five students, and each team collaborated with just with one nonprofit—though some nonprofits accommodated multiple projects. During the course, students were given the opportunity to share project challenges across teams and virtual breakout rooms to get the valuable perspective of other students.
The personal resilience segment of the course involved asynchronous or unscheduled personal challenges, such as spending 20 minutes each day in nature, while also reading contemporary research on the health and well-being benefits of time spent outdoors. Other challenges involved mindfulness, sleep habits, exercise, and the practice of gratitude.
“It’s a tough time right now to be a student or professional, and if we’re not practicing self-care, we’re not capable of leading others,” Boggs said.
An organizational resiliency project adopted by the course was the incorporation of two new initiatives into BRING Recycling’s Rethink Business Program.
Certification in the Rethink Business Program comes through demonstrated sustainability in all areas of business, including energy use, operational efficiency, sustainable supply chain management, and equitable and inclusive hiring practices.
These new initiatives, developed in part through student work, are meant to reward the idea of resilience in Lane County businesses, as well as justice, equity, diversity and inclusion (or what BRING Recycling calls “JEDI”).
Christine Scafa, director of sustainable business development at BRING Recycling, said the student work demonstrated high-quality research.
The students developed a checklist to guide businesses through the certification process, as well as gathered valuable feedback from participating businesses.
“We are very pleased with their work and look forward to using this project as a foundation to guide businesses in these two areas,” Scafa said.
Another Eugene-area nonprofit that benefited from student work was Friends of Buford Park and Mt. Pisgah. Two student teams worked with the organization. One area of focus was the nonprofit’s strategic plan, guiding the nonprofit’s board towards vision, mission and strategy—and away from purely tactical thinking. The second team, in collaboration with Friends of Buford Park and Mt. Pisgah, provided content for an interactive app called OuterSpatial. The app helps people who are unfamiliar with the park access park resources and trails, as well as information about local flora and fauna.
Friends of Buford Park and Mt. Pisgah executive director Janelle McCoy said the teams she worked with provided high-level thinking,and shared responsibilities well—both on-location and through offline research.
“We enjoyed working with the students immensely,” McCoy said.
Additional student work in the course aided Food for Lane County, Eugene Parks and Rec’s Riverhouse, and Koba Crystals, a Portland-based B Corp.
“We helped Food For Lane County develop a marketing strategy campaign to attract first-time users, especially in the Latinx community,” said Alvia Wilcox, MBA/MSF ’21. “Thanks to this experience, I was able to engage further and propose to work together with the graduate Net Impact chapter of UO. Throughout the school year, we will help identify potential partnerships that would further Food For Lane County’s reach in the community.”
The idea for the Resilient Leadership for Social Impact course had been with Boggs for quite some time. When the pandemic set-in and students were losing their internships or summer work opportunities, he was encouraged to submit the course for summer term by his department head and associate dean.
“In some ways the crisis that opened up the opportunity for this course,” Boggs said. He was particularly impressed with how well students learned to collaborate from a distance, working together as part of a remote team.
“The students really responded well,” he said.
—AnneMarie Knepper-Sjoblom ’05, Lundquist College Communications