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HBA students put their business expertise to work in the community

  • Communications
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  • Nov 26, 2014
HBA students put their business expertise to work in the community

HBA students Brian Han, Kayla Duncan, and Cameron Adams at the Ivey Connects Community Consulting Project closing ceremonies

Whether helping the Canadian Cancer Society retain youth volunteers or Mother Reach London and Middlesex to offer resources for new dads, Ivey’s HBA students turned their business expertise into a boost for London-area non-profit organizations.

The students recently wrapped up the Ivey Connects Community Consulting Project (CCP), a business consulting program run by students with support from Accenture management consultants. They shared their project results and how these initiatives will make a difference in the community at a CCP closing ceremonies event at Ivey on November 21. 

Each year for CCP, Ivey HBA student teams are paired with local non-profit organizations to undertake pro-bono consulting projects over a six-week period from October to November. This year, 44 students working in groups of four helped 11 non-profit organizations: The Business Help Centre; Original Kids Theatre Company;  Mother Reach London and Middlesex; Middlesex-London Health Unit; Make-A-Wish Foundation; London Employment Help Centre; The London Co-op Store; Goodwill Industries, Ontario Great Lakes; Chelsea Green Children's Centre Inc.; The Centre for Employment & Learning; and, the Canadian Cancer Society.

HBA student Mariam Shokrizadeh, External Director, Ivey Community Consulting Project, said she was impressed by the students’ performance in CCP and the interest from non-profit organizations.

“This year, we received the most student and NPO (non-profit organization) applications ever. That statement alone shows how valuable and sought-after this program is. There is a continuous need from local NPOs in our community for strategic and creative individuals to help guide the organization in the right direction,” she said. “The projects that were selected this year were extremely challenging with the potential for students to make long-term positive impact.”

Real-world experience

HBA student Devyani Goyal, who worked with teammates Karen Yu, Mackenzie May, and Azzam Ramji to help the Canadian Cancer Society to retain young volunteers, said she experienced firsthand what it’s like to be a consultant.

“I want to go into consulting, but I had no idea what that entailed. A lot of work goes into it, everything from condensing information to creating an implementation plan,” she said. “The huge motivating factor is that you are helping a non-profit organization. Most of us have had our own personal experiences with cancer.”

One of the Canadian Cancer Society’s greatest assets is its volunteers. Volunteers are involved in all aspects of the organization’s activities including providing direct support to those living with cancer, promoting healthy living, advocating for better public policies ,and fundraising.

Cathy Hall, Director, Volunteer Engagement, Canadian Cancer Society, Ontario Division, said the students developed a strategy for the Society to retain and engage youth volunteers as they transition out of high school into post-secondary education. Several of the HBA students involved in the CCP project had previously been involved with the Canadian Cancer Society and that knowledge, combined with their personal insight into life on campus, were key to the plan.

“With more than 2,400 youth under the age of 17 joining the Canadian Cancer Society in Ontario each year, implementing the recommendations from the CCP team will have a tremendous positive effect on our organization,” she said.  “The fact that Ivey students choose to get involved and share their ideas with non-profits through CCP while balancing their workload at school is inspiring, and illustrates the contributions and impact of youth/young adults.”

From classroom to the community

HBA student Aqsa Mian said the CCP project opened her eyes to the needs in the London community. She worked on a project for Mother Reach London and Middlesex, along with classmates Charlotte Zhen, Noah Dibley, and Aneesh Thakore. Mother Reach is a coalition of community members and professionals in London and Middlesex County that seeks to increase awareness of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and provide information and resources to prenatal and postpartum women, their families, and caregivers. The students helped the organization to expand its resources for new fathers and help connect dads with other dads through an offshoot Father Reach program.

“We learned that fathers want to be more involved when they become new parents as well as understand what their partners are going through. There’s a really need to provide support,” she said.

“It brought a real spin to what you learn in class. You get to see how things work in the real world. It puts learning at Ivey in a real-world context and you can see the benefits.”

Leo Desjardins, Director of Clinical Services at Vanier Children's Services and Mother Reach Coalition member, said the students’ work helped the Coalition gain a better understanding of how to communicate with fathers, reach out to them, and advocate for the development of fatherhood community mental health resources.

“Research has shown that 10 to 14 per cent of new fathers struggle with postpartum depression, especially young fathers. That number is staggering and speaks to the fact that we need to find ways to connect, support, and provide much-needed assistance to new fathers,” he said. “The Ivey students helped the Coalition to bring out of the shadows the simple fact that dads get postpartum blues, too.”