Getting hands-on experience outside of the classroom is something that sets Kettering University apart.
Now, thanks to a new curriculum in the University’s Business Department, Business students will have the chance to take their skills learned in the classroom and put them to good use at a local non-profit.
Six students are working with the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan to create a marketing and volunteer retention plan before their class term is up.
“This is the first time this course has been taught. It’s an integration of all their courses - communication skills, teamwork, critical thinking and lifelong learning,” said Dr. Ken Williams, Department of Business faculty member. “It’s nice that we are able to give back to a non-profit and the community.”
The students started by volunteering at the Food Bank and talking with staff and volunteers to get a better sense of what the organization was all about. Then they went to work on brainstorming ideas on how to get more volunteers, retain them and how to create an effective marketing campaign.
The Food Bank of Eastern Michigan distributes over 25 million pounds of food annually, through a network of more than 415 partner agencies in 22 counties.
It’s what the Food Bank does that keeps the students motivated.
“We all leave there and we are more energized. We get to know the people there and hear their stories. They really do so much good. If you’re not involved you might not be aware of how much good they actually do,” said Lauren Burget ‘17.
The students want to help the Food Bank be more effective and efficient at sharing their mission and needs in order to better serve the community.
Burget is working with the volunteer side of the project. Shannon Haggerty ‘17 is working on the marketing side.
“It’s a true collaborative effort with the Food Bank,” Haggerty said. “These staff members do so much good and dedicate their lives to making a difference. You can tell the passion is so genuine.”
The other students involved include: Ryan Perttunen, Gabrielle Hoag, Patrick Zewatski and Candayshia Loyd.
“I’m extremely proud of them,” Williams said. “What I admired about all of them is their professionalism, insight, enthusiasm and commitment they have with this program and the Food Bank. This opportunity gives a lifelong learning experience and a sense of community for the students.”
The Food Bank of Eastern Michigan is located at 2300 Lapeer Road in Flint, Mich. A new warehouse was recently built and is located on Howard Avenue around the corner.
Once food arrives at the Food Bank, it is sorted, inspected and made available to partner agencies such as churches, soup kitchens, and food pantries to distribute to those in need. All Food Bank partner agencies are required to distribute food, without charges or fees, to needy clients.
After volunteering a few times, the students suggested that the volunteer experience could be enhanced by improving the the environment of the Food Bank. They suggested a Selfie Station to allow the volunteers to document their time volunteering and a reward system for consistent volunteers.
The hope is to have volunteers feel even more valued than they already are and to encourage them to spread the word.
When it comes to the marketing side of the plan, the students want to create a strategy for the Food Bank to effectively advertise and share what makes them unique and what they need while making it easy and sustainable for a small non-profit staff.
The Food Bank is in need of volunteers all year, but they usually get spikes of volunteers around the holidays. They also have programs like Senior Grocery Box that the community might not be aware of, Haggerty said.
“We want to advocate to the community the good that the volunteers do and make that emotional connection,” she said.
The students will spend the rest of the term continuing to learn about the Food Bank while creating a strategic plan for the next group of students to implement.
The hope is that the partnership between the Food Bank and Kettering will be a continued one.
For the students, this opportunity not only allows them to help the community but it has also taught them lifelong skills.
“We just love the opportunity. You’ve learned all these things in class and to be able to put them in motion is really awesome,” Burget said. “We get to use what we’ve learned to help make the community better. And that’s even better.”
Burget said some of the lessons she’s learned along the way include learning the best ways to share your opinion and not being afraid to share it, along with not saying no to an idea. Initial ideas will lead to new and better ideas with collaboration.
Teamwork and collaboration is something Haggerty will take away from the experience.
“Gaining the experience working with so many different and diverse personalities was beneficial. Learning how to balance that and becoming an effective and powerful team has been a great experience, along with working closely with the Food Bank staff,” Haggerty said. “Finding the balance between all the different mindsets and perspectives to create the best product is the thing I will use the most going forward.”
For more information about the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan visit www.fbem.org.
Written By Sarah Schuch | Contact: Sarah Schuch - firstname.lastname@example.org - (810) 762-9369