Students Raise More than $25,000 for Local Community

Released: 12/11/2013 1:00 PM EST
Source Newsroom: University of Virginia, McIntire School of Commerce
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Newswise — Through a capstone class project focusing on a hands-on approach, students in McIntire’s COMM 3200 “Project Management” are giving back to the community to the tune of $25,000 for 15 Charlottesville area charities.

The “Liberty Tax/CEB Social Enterprise Project Challenge” provided student teams with the opportunity to learn and implement project management key concepts, gain real-world project management experience, and have a positive impact on the Charlottesville community. The teams, who were given $500 in seed money at the start of the semester, were asked to identify and partner with a local 501(c)(3) charity. They were then tasked with planning an activity, function, or enterprise to grow the $500 on behalf of the charity, returning the original seed money plus 10 percent of gross funds to sustain future project challenges and donating the remainder to the charity on behalf of the School, Liberty Tax, CEB, and the project team.

As WVIR-TV NBC 29 reported in a Nov. 26 news story featuring the class project, third-year student Luis Ortiz (McIntire ’15) is taking away concepts like budgeting and organizing from the class. He and four teammates organized HackVirginia for their semester-long assignment to benefit the charity of their choice, Computers4Kids.

“We decided we would do a hackathon,” Ortiz told NBC 29. “Students came together in groups of five and developed some sort of software that could benefit the community, so you could do an iPhone app, Android app, or some sort of website.”

According to the NBC 29 broadcast, more than 100 students from colleges around the Commonwealth came together in UVA’s Clemons Library Nov. 29 for the 24-hour hackathon. Corporate sponsors including Amazon, Google, and Capital One sent representatives to set up information booths. The hackathon, which Ortiz said they hope to make an annual event, raised $6,000 for Computers4Kids.

“What better way to teach project management than to actually have students run real projects,” COMM 3200 Instructor and Lecturer Jason Williamson told the TV news reporter. “The experience is great because not only are the students saying, 'This is what I learned in class and this is how we executed it,' they’re actually able to see in the community where the work that they did in class is affecting lives.”

Another group of COMM 3200 students raised more than $1,000 for the Ronald McDonald House of Charlottesville, a charity that provides temporary housing for families to be near their hospitalized child.

Meg Beattie (Engineering ’15), a student organizer of the auction, said it was a highly rewarding experience. “Our assignment at the beginning of the semester was to partner with a local charity, and our group choice was the Ronald McDonald House. Our timing was good because their permanent location is being renovated this semester, and they are in temporary quarters in a dorm no longer used by students. It made us feel good to be helping out, especially at a time when their ability to fundraise is limited.”

Beattie said the auction project was beneficial to the students, who had to ask for donations, coordinate a large event, and work with outside contacts to reach their goal.

Rita Ralston, Executive Director of the RMH of Charlottesville, who worked with the students on this project, is singing their praises.

“One of the extraordinary aspects of this project,” Ralston said, “was that the decision making, planning, and execution were all done in less than two months by students who have no professional experience in fundraising.”

Adding to that, she said, part of the process was the solicitation of items for the auction, “usually the least favorite aspect of such an event for any fundraising committee.”

“The students accomplished this quickly and with great aplomb,” she said. “They were very savvy in attempting to make many of the items as ‘value added’ as possible. For example, they offered not just lunch at a certain location, but lunch with a local notable person, which elevates that item tremendously. It was clear to me they gave this kind of strategic thinking to each aspect of the project.”

Ralston added, “The McIntire students have a very good sense of their environment, how to reach others, how to use the tools available to them, and how to implement change. I commend the McIntire School for recruiting this level of student and for guiding each of them in the development of these skills.”

Ralston said the funds raised by the students will help the RMH to provide the items used daily in efforts to lodge, feed, and care for families of ill and injured children receiving care at the UVA Children’s Hospital.

“The quality and depth of work that our students demonstrated throughout this project have been exemplary,” Williamson said. “Not only did they learn the practical application of what we teach in class about project management, but they also had a positive impact on the local community.”

It’s an impact Ortiz is seeing firsthand.

“I learned the importance of being able to execute an event really well and to please all the stakeholders, and also Computers4Kids—just being able to help them—it’s a great feeling,” Ortiz said.