Published 05/17/12

Tucked under the surface of a course in management principles is a passion for service learning

May 17, 2012

This video was prepared for the nonprofit Gotta Have Sole by members of Team Heart and Sole as part of their service-learning project for "Management Principles and Practice" (Management 200).

Watch a homeless child's face light up when given a pair of brand-new shoes, or an elderly person's eyes sparkle while learning how to use a computer for the first time.

Those are just two of the outcomes of more than 50 service-learning projects undertaken by Bryant students enrolled in "Management Principles and Practice"(Management 200), a course in which students break into teams to work with area nonprofits.

In the six years the course has been offered, projects have ranged from revamping the social media presence of the Katie Brown Educational Program, a domestic-violence prevention organization, to teaching geography and culture to children in Woonsocket, R.I., public schools.

Six years of making a difference

The projects are developed in line with the thinking that when you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Bryant students took on that challenge not only volunteering their time, expertise, and resources, but making those efforts replicable and sustainable.

At the end of the semester, the teams' projects are evaluated by a panel of judges, with the top three teams winning monetary donations toward their nonprofit.

But there's more to the course than winning and losing. "This year, every single group talked about the reward they got out of [their projects] ... the passion is just unbelievable," said one of the judges.

The winning team, Heart and Sole, helped raise more than $1,500 through a tennis tournament for Gotta Have Sole Inc ., a Rhode Island-based organization that donates new shoes to homeless people in seven states.

"The cause that they work so hard for each and every day was what really motivated [us] to push through and make the tennis tournament everything it could be," said Kelsey Nowak '14, who worked with peers Frankie DiGisi '14, Nolan Thompson '14, Robert Ingebretsen '14, and Michael Perry '14. She credited the team's cohesive dynamic for its success.

Going the extra mile

"You can't create [a desire for] social entrepreneurship - there are some people who have it in their hearts," said Lori Lowinger, mother of Nicholas, the 14-year-old founder of Gotta Have Sole. She has worked with many of Bryant's Management 200 groups over the years, and noted that the Heart and Sole team was "unbelievable."

"They took the bull by the horns, listened to what our needs were and [worked] to create things on their own. They took a lot of initiative," she said, noting that the group was initially charged with simply organizing the tournament but tasked themselves with fundraising as well.

Despite a slow start, the team attracted donations from a number of local businesses, including autographed balls from the Boston Red Sox and the New England Patriots for a silent auction.

Team member Thompson took the project even further by producing a short film of the kids gleefully trying out their new shoes and an interview with the young founder.

The video has been "wildly successful," according to Lowinger, and will be sent as part of the nonprofit's new promotional materials.