Adding Service to the Business Curriculum

Community service is now a requirement for business majors at the University of Texas at Dallas. The objective: to instill in them a lifelong sense of connection and responsibility to their communities.
Adding Service to the Business Curriculum

THE MORE STUDENTS engage with their communities during their programs, the deeper their sense of belonging and social responsibility at graduation. A new initiative at the Naveen Jindal School of Management at the University of Texas at Dallas was created with that idea in mind. Starting with last fall's incoming freshmen and transfer students, all undergraduates at the Jindal School must fulfill lOO hours of community service as a requirement for graduation.

The school has taken this step to help students become more well-rounded citizens who engage with their communities and understand social concerns, instead of just being people who are "good at crunching numbers," says Marilyn Kaplan, associate dean of undergraduate programs.

To accumulate service hours, students can volunteer at approved nonprofit organizations, enroll in courses with service components, or do a combination of both. Qualifying course projects might involve creating marketing plans for nonprofits, helping organizations with financial statements, or completing consultancies with charitable or service agencies.

Courses that integrate community service components include Business Basics, a mandatory freshmen course with a project that satisfies five hours of the requirement. Students can fulfill 20 hours of the requirement in Product and Brand Management, ten hours in Digital Internet and Marketing, and 20 hours in Market Research if they choose nonprofits as their project partners.

Students enrolled in Social Sector Engagement and Community Outreach, a course in social entrepreneurship, can complete all 100 hours of their community service in a single semester by helping small businesses address realworld business problems. This could be an attractive option for transfer students who want to stay on schedule to graduate in four years.

“Students learn to communicate a clear vision of the organization they serve, analyze issues, solve problems, delegate tasks, build trust and influence, and motivate others to contribute to the cause.” Hasan Pirkul, the Jindal School

Robert Wright, a senior lecturer in innovation and entrepreneurship, teaches the course. Throughout the summer of 2018, Wright worked with the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas (UWMD), where he sits on the board, to design an application to track the course's service component. "This requirement has the potential to either enrich the lives of Jindal School students by [exposing them to needs in the community], or it changes the course of their lives by sending them down a path of working in community service," says Wright.

Community service is really "a form of leadership training," says Hasan Pirkul, Caruth Chair and dean of the Jindal School. "Students learn to communicate a clear vision of the organization they serve, analyze issues, solve problems, delegate tasks, build trust and influence, and motivate others to contribute to the cause."

The Jindal School has collaborated with both UWMD and the UT Dallas Office of Student Volunteerism to connect students with a wide range of service opportunities. Students can volunteer for work that suits their interests and skills.

Kaplan points out that 100 hours of community service averages to just 12.5 hours each semester. "Students could knock that out while studying abroad, over a single weekend, during alternative spring break, or even by volunteering an hour or two at a time at various points during a semester," she says.

In fact, many JSOM students already perform 100 hours of community service through fraternities, sororities, or student organizations. "We were just never able to collect the data or know the impact of what our student body was doing until now," Kaplan adds.

Daniel Rajaratnam, a clinical professor in marketing who teaches market research, appreciates that his students can gain experience doing surveys and analyzing data while helping local nonprofits. The requirement also provides the school data about its social impact.

"Logging those service hours," says Rajaratnam, "allows the university to quantify how much we're giving back to the community."