TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Earlier this year, Alabama Gov. Bob Riley told the state legislature that “our government faces a fiscal crisis of historic proportions.” A number of not-for-profit programs will suffer lower funding if funded at all. So students in The University of Alabama’s Master of Business Administration Program are rolling up their sleeves and helping fill the void by sharing their business knowledge with West Alabama not-for-profit organizations. The result is free consulting services to help solve problems and encourage growth in the business community.
“Given the current fiscal realities in the state of Alabama, and across the country, many not for profits are being challenged to do more with less governmental support,” said Dr. Louis Marino, UA associate professor of entrepreneurship and strategic management.
“Based on the current rates our new M.B.A. graduates are earning in consulting firms, we estimated that The University of Alabama M.B.A. students donated over $250,000 worth of consulting services to not-for-profit firms in Alabama.”
The student consulting teams, which are composed of second-year M.B.A. students in the UA Manderson Graduate School of Business, are working for these organizations as part of their fall curriculum. They will present their recommendations later this year. In addition to getting grades and work experience, students are learning the value of community involvement in business.
“This program is so important as it gives our M.B.A. students a first hand view of how community service is just as critical as their contributions to their respective organizations,” said Susan Carver, assistant dean and director of M.B.A. programs. “By getting our students exposed to this early on in their career we feel like they will be valuable contributors to society for a lifetime.”
The value of M.B.A. student consulting has been proven in the past through projects with organizations such the Gadsden Museum of Art, the American Red Cross and the Tuscaloosa County Park and Recreation Authority (PARA) as well as involvement in National Case Competitions for clients such as National Public Radio, Habitat for Humanity, The International Olympic Committee, and The World Bank.
“This allows us to pay back our civic rent in a meaningful way,” said Carver. “The non-profits win because it affords them a very talented group of business students that can offer solutions that are not easy to come by in a non-profit setting given the economic and volunteer pressures. It is truly a win-win for everyone.”
One of the organizations now being assisted by a team of M.B.A.s is the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama-One Stop Licensing and Permitting Center. The center was developed by the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama to be a “one stop” Web site for people in Tuscaloosa, Northport and Tuscaloosa County to get information on starting and running a small business. The goal of the site is to foster economic development in the area. M.B.A. students are working to develop a local strategy to increase awareness and use of the Web site as well as a national strategy for potential expansion.
“The expertise that students in the M.B.A. program bring to the Chamber of Commerce opens up new opportunities for economic development in the West Alabama area,” said Donny Jones, vice-president of operations and technology for the chamber. “The students’ consulting services allow the Chamber to explore new projects and to gain invaluable knowledge that will help all of West Alabama grow and prosper. We have always had a great relationship with University of Alabama students and hope to continue working with them on projects in the future. Together the University and the Chamber of Commerce can make great strides to improve business in West Alabama.”
Other organizations participating in these projects include:
American Red Cross
Two teams of M.B.A. students are assisting the Red Cross by developing plans to increase blood donations in the West Alabama area. One team is focusing on a strategy to increase penetration into the donor market, particularly the Hispanic population. The other team is developing an overall marketing campaign to enhance relations with area employers in order to increase blood donations.
Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama-West Alabama Hunting and Fishing Trail
The West Alabama Hunting and Fishing Trail has created a Web site to increase economic development in West Alabama by getting more hunters and fishermen to visit the area. A team of UA M.B.A.s is helping this organization by developing a strategic plan to determine business decisions such as membership, advertising, marketing budgets and more.
College of Engineering – Clean Room
The University Of Alabama College Of Engineering has invested approximately $3 million in developing a state-of-the-art clean room, which is used for micromachining and various nanotechnology procedures. The college now needs an effective plan for maintaining and operating the facility. M.B.A. students are exploring potential users and projects for the clean room as well as how to best utilize this facility while minimizing costs to the College of Engineering.
Greensboro Opera House
The Bibb County Historical Society has purchased an old opera house that has been closed since the 1930’s but remains in very good condition. Estimates of renovation costs have been made, and an M.B.A. group is working to determine if the renovating and re-opening the opera house is practical. The group is looking for ways to finance the renovation and market the renovation and re-opening locally and regionally.
Moundville Archaeological Park, part of The University of Alabama Museums, is in need of a strategy to raise revenues and awareness of the park. A team of M.BA. students is developing ways to make the annual Native American Festival more profitable and to increase festival attendance. They are also working with the park to ways to produce revenue for the park during year around.
The Warner-Westervelt Museum, located in North River Yacht Club, holds the collection of Jack Warner who is one of the nation’s leading collectors. Since its opening two years ago, the museum has had trouble finding regional and local support. According to curator Susan Austin, the museum has had more visitors from New York than from Alabama. An M.B.A. group has been asked to develop a business plan that will set a new direction for the museum as well as increase awareness of the museum locally and regionally.
Ranked 61th overall by U.S. News and World Report, The University of Alabama Master of Business Administration program is nationally recognized for excellence. The program consistently ranks among the top M.B.A. programs in the nation for return on investment, most recently recognized by Forbes Magazine as 9th in the nation for time to recapture tuition and foregone earnings. The Princeton Review ranked the program 4th for Best Campus Facilities, 4th for Best Administered Program and 5th for Best Professors.
The M.B.A. program is a two-year program, including a summer internship. Enrollment takes place in August each year. The first deadline for submitting applications for enrollment in 2005 will be Jan. 5. For additional information, please visit http://mba.cba.ua.edu.
Susan Carver, 205/348-0954
The University of Alabama, part of The University of Alabama System, is the state’s flagship university. UA shapes a better world through its teaching, research and service. With a global reputation for excellence, UA provides an inclusive, forward-thinking environment and nearly 200 degree programs on a beautiful, student-centered campus. A leader in cutting-edge research, UA advances discovery, creative inquiry and knowledge through more than 30 research centers. As the state’s largest higher education institution, UA drives economic growth in Alabama and beyond.