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September 26, 2020

Strive to Thrive Student Blog - Fall 2020

Strive to Thrive Student Blog - Fall 2020
Strive to Thrive Lincoln students participate in a blended remote/in-person format for the fall 2020 semester.
This fall, Leading People and Projects (MNGT 411) welcomes a new format from its previous eight semesters -- a blended remote/in-person format that hasn’t stopped the class from beginning successfully.

Leading People and Projects students are challenged to understand philanthropy as individuals and as a group, successfully coordinate efforts across seven department-like teams and navigate intragroup collaboration and organization. This is done through MNGT 411’s cornerstone project, Strive to Thrive Lincoln. The fall semester is the ninth time students of this class decide how to invest $10,000 into social enterprises in Lincoln, Nebraska. Strive to Thrive Lincoln, an experience unlike any offered by other courses, is made possible by the generosity of Rhonda Seacrest, the Learning by Giving Foundation and the partnership of the College of Business.

This semester the Strive to Thrive Lincoln Student Blog is managed by the Publicity team. This team is comprised of students Kate Dean a management major from Lincoln, Nebraska; Adrianna Mcking, a Clifton Builders management major, marketing and advertising/public relations major from Omaha, Nebraska; Claire Deetz, business administration and hospitality major from Omaha, Nebraska; Issac Archuletta, a business administration major from Brainard, Nebraska; Kelby Roberts, a marketing and management major from Aurora, Nebraska; Emma Karr, a management and marketing major from Fremont, Nebraska; and Dallis Votava, a design and technical theater major from Lincoln, Nebraska. As a team, students are eager to build connections with and invest in non-profit organizations in the Lincoln community.

9/25/20 - Meeting Past Grant Awardees

On September 23, the students of Management 411 welcomed representatives from Spring 2020 Strive to Thrive grant winners, Food Fort and Belmont Community Center to the class. Our guest speakers came at a pivotal time in the semester as every member of the class is continually working on identifying and researching nonprofits that align with our mission statement.

Following an introduction by Carlyn Bretey of the community engagement group, Michaela Akridge (founder of Food Fort) and Emily Koopman and Karen French (Executive Director and Assistant Director, respectively, of Belmont Community Center) made their opening remarks to the class.  

Karen French told our class about the history of the Belmont Community Center (BCC). From its genesis in 1937 to now, the BCC has evolved to serve students and support the surrounding community by offering before/after school programming, renting out their gym to youth sports teams, and renting out their facility for other organizations to host meetings. 

Michaela Akridge explained how her organization, Food Fort, capitalizes on using food and mealtimes as an avenue to create relationships with youth in the community. As the founder, Akridge described how her time spent as a Vacation Bible School volunteer showed her the need for fostering relationships with underprivileged children in the Lincoln community. She also stated through adopting her children she had connections to areas most in need. 

The first question that was asked was how each organization used the $5,000 Strive to Thrive Grant.

The representatives of the Belmont Community Center, Emily and Karen, shared that the grant has gone to various activities. The grant has gone to paying for resources and supplies for STEM programming, and to purchasing a projector to maximize the utility of their main room area. The founder of Food Fort, Michaela, having received the grant twice, told the MNGT 411 class the grant has mostly gone to support their giving garden from expansion to supporting the hiring of Food Fort supported local teens to equip them with experience and skills to be prepared for job processes and college.

The class followed up with a few questions about the two non-profit organizations’ experiences overall that led to very eye-opening and heart-warming responses. 

Since last week, students in Leading Peoples and Projects have spent time in pairings working on researching and advocating for NPO candidates. Starting with a list of possible organizations that fit this year’s Strive to Thrive mission, students began preliminary research of the organizations’ scope of impact and primary contacts. After the Applicant Communications Group approved the organization's class pairs then contacted their respective organizations to answer the singular question: “How would you use a $5,000 grant in accordance with the Strive to Thrive Lincoln mission?”. With this question answered pairs are now continuing their research and putting together a white paper to present to the class for deliberation. 

Thank you for following along with us throughout our journey to find the next Strive to Thrive grant recipients. Check back next week for more updates and reports from the class. 

9/17/20 - The Mission Statement

On September 16th, following a week of collaborative conversation and deliberation, the MNGT 411 class adopted the following mission statement:

Strive to Thrive Lincoln provides Nebraska Business students in the Management 411 class with the opportunity to grant funds to sustainable organizations that provide equitable and educationally related opportunities to intersectional populations in the Lincoln/Lancaster County community. 

Creating the Mission

The mission defining process began with establishing funding priorities as individuals and then in groups. With the intention to incorporate the perspective of every class member, after discussing individual priorities, all seven groups were responsible for coming up with a mission statement. After presenting each statement, the class determined a list of common encompassing themes. 

  • Sustainability: An organization that is capable of continuing business with or without our contribution.
  • Intersectionality: The organization must be one that looks to address both the results of an issue and compounding, multi-faceted expressions of such issues. Ex: Poverty among LGBT+ Youth; Impoverished Minority students
  • Community
  • COVID-19 and “the ever-changing world”
  • Education
Management 411 students (both in-person and on zoom) discuss potential mission statements. After hearing ideas from each group, Dr. Messersmith made a list of common themes found in our mission statements.
Management 411 students (both in-person and on zoom) discuss potential mission statements. After hearing ideas from each group, Dr. Messersmith made a list of common themes found in our mission statements.

With a narrowed basis of agreement, the class groups reworked their statements to encompass the five mission themes. This direction made second attempts at the mission statement much easier. Again each team shared their approaches and the class deliberated.

Points of Discussion

The world has always been unpredictable and the pandemic we are in has presented itself with an unfamiliar set of challenges during a unique year for our country. No one is ignorant of COVID-19 and its economic implications. Knowing that, as a class, we chose to consider COVID-19 related elements as much as a given as including the terms “non-profit organization”. Omitting this from our mission, the focus shifted to education and intersectionality, which afford a broader approach that will inevitably help a COVID-19 impacted demographic.

With a $5,000 grant, we elected that it be best that our funds are given to a sustainable organization that already has made their mark on the community and will continue to do so after our donation is spent. We want our grant to assist in continuing those amazing efforts in order to give back to the Lincoln/Lancaster County community. 

In order to expand our reach, we decided to change the verbiage from “education” to “educationally related”. This opens the door for us to assist an NPO that supports any type of educational program and not just the school system. For example, afterschool programs, adult/family literacy classes, programs to practice athletics, etc.

Utilizing the polling feature on zoom as well as polling the students in the class, we passed our mission nearly unanimously. With our mission established, we cannot wait to seek out local organizations that align with our mission.

9/11/20 - Learning About Philanthropy

Strive to Thrive Lincoln students take to Zoom for remote project planning and information sharing.
Strive to Thrive Lincoln students take to Zoom for remote project planning and information sharing.

The first weeks of this semester Strive to Thrive students spent time learning the definitions of philanthropy, its roots, benefits and shortcomings. Students were responsible for reading and reflecting on articles and other class materials within the seven groups. After gaining insight into the concept of philanthropy, students had the opportunity to identify their own personal values and narrow it down to their core guiding principles. Following narrowing down individual values, Strive to Thrive students began learning about the importance of administration in non-profit organizations leading to a remote guest speaker presentation.

On September 2, Strive to Thrive Lincoln welcomed Kyle Cartwright via Zoom to provide his insights and advice as students began to determine group priorities to develop ideas for this year’s mission statement that will be used for deciding grant recipients. Cartwright, Executive Director of the Nebraska Cultural Endowment, offered tips on how to read a 990 form, build trust with nonprofits and navigate challenges that may arise during the semester.

After the first presentation class time was devoted to defining intragroup dynamics in each of the seven teams. Students communicated group expectations, identified group strengths, and set standards for dealing with internal conflict. 

With groups better established, Leading Peoples and Projects prepared for the second guest speaker of the year. On September 10, Dr. Stacey Hoffman was invited as the second guest speaker to present to the class the findings of the 2019 Lincoln Vital Signs report. Dr. Hoffman answered many questions about the report and her organization. Dr. Hoffman also left the class with advice for selecting non-profit organizations: consider the longevity of the investment. 

The first few weeks have passed quickly in Leading Peoples and Projects. Time was spent defining philanthropy, group expectations and learning from Community Members. Looking forward to next week, Strive to Thrive Lincoln will have defined this semester’s mission and continue our efforts to find worthy organizations.

We look forward to a challenging yet rewarding semester.  

Follow along with Management 411 students throughout the semester with our weekly blogs, which will provide progress reports, photos, and recaps of class activities and visitors.