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Students help area non-profits succeed.

By : Melissa Yang

Kimberly Jaussi, an assistant professor in the school of management who teaches Organizational and Strategic Leadership, is also the co--advisor (with Shelley Dionne) of the Binghamton student chapter of Society for Human Resource Management.
In a world that is rife with corporate scandals, crooked CEOs and ineffective leaders, students are left to wonder, “Who will lead us into the future?” A tough question with a very simple answer — they will. The School of Management’s Leadership and Consulting concentration provides an unique opportunity for undergraduate students to become the leaders of tomorrow.

With a three-course sequence of classes taught by Kimberly Juassi, Shelley Dionne and Don Spangler based on the level of analysis the concentration starts on an individual level, moves its way into teams and group projects and culminates with organizational and strategic leadership, where students work on a semester-long consulting project with local non-profit organizations. So far, the program has helped about 20 different non-profits in the local community, including First Night, Catholic Charities of Broome County, the Ross Park Zoo, the Boys and Girls Club of Binghamton, Southern Tier AIDS Project, the Red Cross, Head Start of Broome County, the Discovery Center, Habitat for Humanity, and Broome County Parks and Recreation. Over the course of the semester, the students work directly with executive directors in setting goals, and advising them of methods for achieving those goals and improving their organizations for their employees.

Why does the program target non-profits organizations? Why work for a non-profit?

“Because it is important for leaders to understand that businesses have a hand in and responsibility to society,” said Jaussi, an assistant professor of management and one of the faculty advisors of the Society for Human Resource Managment (SHRM). She said it is important to use the skills one is good at to give back to the community, and that leaders must grasp the importance of serving others. Seeing how motivation and inspiration function in a non-profit organization exposes students to the true essence of leadership. Because the classes focus on volunteer-based agencies, and the students have no official power at the agency, they are challenged to find ways to motivate employees in these non-profit agencies to go along with their ideas.

Students like Meeka Levin, a senior and leadership and consulting major, who worked with one of the area non-profit agencies, said that the program helped her grow. Working with a non-profit organization provided her with the opportunity to develop people as well as developing herself. In doing both, she said, she became a better leader.

“It was my favorite class because you really act as consultants,” Levin said. Although she was working for a non-profit, she said the experience gave her the feeling that she was working in the real world for a real company.

Levin and her team classmates were directly involved with the organization and how it functions on a daily basis. As she interacted with professionals working for a cause both the organization and her team believed in, Levin said it opened her eyes to the ways her skills could effect an organization. Putting her leadership skills in action, she learned about working with others and dealing with diversity.

Having worked at large corporations like Federated Merchandising Group and Morgan Stanley, where Levin said she felt almost lost in the corporate world, working at Mom’s House in Binghamton was different. At the non-profit that provides free daycare for single parents who are pursuing an education, she felt right at home.

“I got to see things from beginning to end. I had one-on-one contact with the executive director — something you don’t see in big corporations,” she said.

Passion is all that holds a non-profit organization together, and Levin got to see first hand the motivation it takes to be a leader in that enviroment. Now she has a contact for life, an unforgettable experience and a plaque at the new site of Mom’s House dedicated to her and her team’s work.

From its beginning three years ago, the Leadership and Consulting concentration has grown from a handful of students to more than 75 future leaders. Applicable to students of virtually any major, it grooms students wanting to become effective leaders.

Complementing the concentration is the newly reactivated student chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management, which brings together those who have an interest in becoming a leader or professional in the field.

The society provides students with an avenue to prepare themselves for an entry-level job through the professional exams that the society recognizes, and allows them to compete with traditional human resource management students across the country.

The organization also brings in guest speakers from major corporations from across the country, including Towers Perrin, Johnson and Johnson, Morgan Stanley, Ernst & Young, Deloitte Consulting, Bear Stearns and GE.

Most recently, the student group brought in a speaker from AT&T, a company which has never recruited at Binghamton. As a result of the positive experience and interest in the concentration, AT&T has created an opportunity for Binghamton students to intern with its organization.

All of these companies believe leadership is not only important but necessary and are looking at Binghamton University students as potential candidates for leadership positions.

Binghamton’s students, working to enhance their own leadership skills, have also changed community for the better.

Students involved in this program have trained to become the leaders society demands. They now will become what Warren Bennis, professor of business administration and founding chairman of the Leadership Institute at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business meant when he said, “Good leaders make people feel that they’re at the very heart of things, not at the periphery. Everyone feels that he or she makes a difference to the success of the organization. When that happens people feel centered and that gives their work meaning.”
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Last Updated: 10/14/08