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Freshmen take a ‘FIRST Step’ at Business United Day

Donning black and neon T-shirts that read “I’M IN MIAMI BUSINESS,” University of Miami students got their hands dirty repainting the mural beneath the 27th Avenue Miami River bridge this past Saturday as part of the first Business United Day.

The Miami River was one of five nonprofit sites that business school freshmen visited for Business United Day, one event under the mandatory FIRST Step Program in their Management 100 course.

FIRST stands for Freshman Integrity, Responsibility and Success through Teamwork. FIRST Step aims at teaching students about community issues and teamwork.

In each class, freshmen are divided into groups of 8-10 students based on resumes they submit over the summer.

“We build these teams with an eye to match up diversity. Someone from Orlando can meet someone from Shanghai,” said Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Programs, Ellen McPhillip.

McPhillip explained that each team is assigned a teaching assistant and a nonprofit organization. Some of this year’s 49 non-profits include the American Cancer Society, The Miami’s Children Museum and the Audobon Society.

Throughout the semester teams work to find solutions to problems that their non-profit is having and develop an advertising and marketing strategy that the organization will use.

The final exam for the freshmen’s Management 100 course is a 10-12 minute formal presentation of their plan to their client and class. Groups are also required to provide a written report and PowerPoint presentation.

Past projects have included logos, brochures and YouTube videos.

Although FIRST Step has been required in previous years, this is the first time Business United Day has been included in the program.

Business United Day is the brainchild of junior Colby Meyers, who saw a void in community service at UM. He said he noticed that most colleges have a community service requirement for their students, but UM does not.

“We have National Gandhi Day of Service, but that’s not enough,” he said.

Since May, Meyers had been working with business school administration and the UM Butler Center to coordinate the non-profit groups that would participate in Saturday’s event and organize smaller details like providing breakfast, snacks, T-shirts and lunch for students.

The Miami River, Weed & Seed South Miami, Town Park Village in Overtown, the Tropical Audubon Society and Rebuilding Together in Homestead were the non-profit sites that teams helped on Saturday. Each class traveled together with TAs and instructors on a bus to visit their site.

“We thought that this would be a wonderful hands-on moment to get our freshmen who are learning core essential business skills first semester an opportunity to be a good partner in the community,” McPhillip said.

“The Business United effort is designed to build a common experience for freshmen. We’re hoping this will become one of their seminal events. We don’t want them to just remember orientation day as their common first experience,” she added.

With brushes and rollers in hard, students at the Miami River site repainted the sunset mural and surrounding walls originally created by Cuban-born artist Xavier Cortada. They also picked up waste around the bridge.

With the exception of the Audobon Society, the Business United Day sites were not the same non-profits that students are assigned for the Management 100 course.

Freshman Lina Aguedelo, whose team was assigned to work with the Lowe Art Museum for the semester, explained how participating at the Miami River will impact her team.

“With volunteering today we’ll get closer as a group,” she said.

Among those present at the Miami River site on Saturday was City of Miami Commissioner Willy Gort, who thanked students and talked about the importance of community service.

“It gives you experience to really realize what the community’s like and learn about the different problems that exist in the community and the different problems within the different neighborhoods,” he said.

With the FIRST Step Program, the School of Business Administration hopes to increase student involvement outside of the classroom.

Senior Sabrina Bunch, teaching assistant and participant at Saturday’s event, has witnessed this process during her time at UM.

“I’ve seen the evolution of the business school being more community-oriented, more group-oriented and focused on giving back,” she said.

Vanessa Ramos may be contacted at vramos@themiamihurricane.com.

September 29, 2010

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Vanessa Ramos


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