Four graduate students from Sacred Heart University’s Jack Welch College of Business (WCOB) recently spent two months helping administrators for Hall Neighborhood House (HNH) of Bridgeport plan the relocation of the facility’s daycare center.
Hall Neighborhood House provides social and educational programs that serve pre-school children, older youth, families and senior citizens in Bridgeport and other area communities. In addition to the daycare center, it runs a youth services program and a senior citizen center.
Currently, HNH cares for and teaches more than 265 infants, toddlers and preschoolers. The administrators plan to move the early learning center in September to a larger space that offers a safer environment for recreational activities, greater access to seniors, cost savings and closer proximity to new public housing where HNH’s client families will live.
The administrators turned to the WCOB for assistance with planning for the big move and, in response, graduate students Shay Cronin, Majed Fayad, David Pepi and Michelle Williams immersed themselves in the challenge. They interviewed HNH’s management team and developed a detailed business plan that incorporated such elements as a useful software tool to track project progress, performance adherence/gaps and individual accountability related to coordination.
The students, who are studying for their master’s degrees in business administration, took on the effort as their action learning project, which is a requirement for all MBA students at SHU. Valerie Christian, assistant professor in SHU’s management department, supervised their work.
Christian was beaming when the four MBA candidates presented their recommendations to HNH administrators. They all gathered in the third-floor boardroom at SHU’s Frank and Marissa Martire Business & Communications Center as the students discussed their recommendations regarding logistics, as well as other ideas and considerations related to the move.
The action learning projects serve a dual purpose for the WCOB: As the MBA students assist not-for-profit organizations such as HNH, they gain real experience and opportunities to build their knowledge and skills, while SHU fulfills its community outreach mission.
Cronin, who graduated in December, said the work for HNH, “was a real-life project where we could provide actual support for an organization and help put them in the right direction with organizing their plan. I’m in marketing now and my learning here will help me move farther up the ladder.”
Pepi, who is on track to graduate in May, commented, “It has helped me become a little more well-rounded and to advance. I was at the University as an undergraduate, and I’ve seen it really ramp up the applied research aspect of learning. It makes the information more interesting and easier to retain and helps you know how to flip it in the real world.”
Bob Dzurenda, HNH’s executive director, explained the value of the students’ involvement. “They have helped us with our thoughts and sending out our plan and timelines, really acting like staff for us and knowing the project very well,” Dzurenda said. “They dove in with their sleeves rolled up and also brought their personal expertise to the table.”
Christian said the rapport between the student team and HNH was “unique and rewarding.” She added that, while her students had mastered general business disciplines through their studies at SHU, their work for HNH was “truly applied learning, wherein they worked on a complex project as virtual consultants, becoming part of the client organization and its mission.”