Since the 2008 recession, business schools have done extensive soul-searching. What is our role in the larger context of society? How do we empower our participants to understand the language of business, but more importantly to create opportunities for themselves and for others around them? How do we incentivize our graduates to understand business in the context of social good?
I spent the last two days in Washington, D.C., with four of our undergraduate students — Jason, Nadine, Tracy and Vanessa — who are spending this semester working as full-time interns on Capitol Hill. Working through the Washington Internship Student Housing (WISH) program, Colleen Davies and Sarah Gnospelius, our dedicated student advisors, picked four students through a selective screening process for this pilot program. Jason works at the Department of Commerce, Office of Public Affairs, Nadine is at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and Vanessa and Tracy are at the Financial Services Roundtable.
Travelling with me from Houston were Frank Kelley and Colleen Davies. Frank is the heart and soul of our undergraduate programs, not just because he is the Associate Dean, but more importantly, he cares, and cares deeply. Colleen is passionate about “her” students and will accept nothing but the very best for and from her students.
We arrived in D.C. Wednesday evening and met the students for dinner. Listening to them talk about their experiences was both fulfilling and humbling. Jason is learning about the importance of communications in public affairs and the value of timely news that connects legislative work to the public. Nadine is working on regulations that will help promote diversity. Vanessa conducts interviews and appreciates the value of effective communications skills when dealing with legislators and financial institutions. Tracy works hard and long on issues related to consumer financial protection. Her latest project involves finding homes for disabled veterans, reallocating foreclosed homes that banks are willing to donate. These students are learning important life skills through this program. They are gaining a solid understanding of the role of public policy in connecting business and society. They are learning to move out of their comfort zones, building their résumés, and making connections which they will take with them long after the semester is over.
Most important, however, is their appreciation for the value of public service. When Jason talked about the importance of communications and news in public affairs, when Nadine talked about the importance of ensuring diversity, when Vanessa spoke about the role and responsibility of financial institutions in serving and protecting the consumer, when Tracy told me about her commitment to helping veterans find homes, it was clear that these students were inspired by goals bigger than themselves. They want to make a difference, and I know they will. You can teach skills inside a classroom, you cannot teach passion for service. Listening to their commitment and their passion was humbling and fulfilling at the same time.
How do we scale these experiences? Your input, please.